WASHINGTON —The Air Force is expected to provide the lion’s share of new cyber mission force teams to U.S. Cyber Command proposed in the fiscal 2022 budget, the first such increase in almost a decade.
The size and makeup of the 133-team cyber mission force, designed in 2012, has remained largely the same since its inception despite the how the threat landscape has changed significantly in that time, including increased cyberattacks.
The FY22 budget proposed a phased approach between FY22 and FY24 to add 14 additional teams, as C4ISRNET reported. The late May budget release did not make clear the breakdown of the new teams or what services would provide them.
The current plan is for the Air Force to provide roughly 40 percent of the new teams, with the Army and Navy filling about 30 percent of the roles, according to a Cyber Command spokesperson, who noted planning is ongoing and subject to change.
“As nation-states and non-state actors continue to increase their cyber and information related activities; these additional cyber mission teams enable U.S. Cyber Command to ensure our operations, capabilities and forces remain agile, flexible and able to respond and disrupt our adversaries ensuring we maintain the advantage, in this strategic competition,” the spokesperson said.
The first phase of this increase in FY22 includes two combat mission teams — which conduct cyber operations on behalf of combatant commands mostly in the offensive sphere — and two cyber support teams, which provide intelligence, mission planning and other necessary support for combat mission teams. The Air Force also will provide a cyber operations-integrated planning element for general support to U.S. Space Command, separate from the 14 teams.
Those planning cells, created in 2017, sit locally with the planning staffs at each combatant command and act as satellite offices of the service-specific cyber components, which control cyber forces. Their goal is to better integrate cyber planning wit land, air, sea and space domains.
One reason for the cyber mission force growth is the Department of Defense’s increased capacity in space. Within the last few years, it created U.S. Space Command and Space Force. The DoD’s budget request noted the additional teams it asked for will address the increased cyber operations requirements and cyber support to space operations.
“In the future, we have to account for the growing importance of space,” Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of Cyber Command, told the House Armed Services Committee in May, regarding the growth in cyber mission force.
The Air Force to date has been responsible for conducting operations for U.S. Space Command under its Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber. Each Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber is headed by one of the service cyber component commanders, who then plan, synchronize and conduct operations for their assigned combatant commands.
Presently, there are no plans for Space Force to add any cyber mission force personnel, officials have said. Instead, they will focus on networks at the installation level and protecting space-based networks.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.