President Donald Trump, in accordance with Congressional decree, directed Cyber Command to elevate to a full unified combatant command out from under Strategic Command in August.
The Defense Department is “in the throes” of making this happen right now, Maj. Gen. Burke “Ed” Wilson, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy and deputy principal cyber adviser to the secretary of defense, said during a media roundtable Oct. 16.
Wilson explained they’re in the final stages of trying to get through the elevation process with a working group now up and running.
The item currently setting the pace is the nomination and confirmation of a new commander that will lead the unified combatant command.
The newly established unified combatant command will need a Senate confirmed commander, though that individual is still unknown. The current commander, Adm. Michael Rogers — who also serves as the director of the National Security Agency — could be nominated or the secretary of defense could nominate another military official to lead the new command.
Officials have also stressed that the commander of the new unified combatant command will remain as the dual hatted director of the NSA, as elevation and severing of the dual hat are two separate issues.
Wilson said a decision on nomination is being worked through senior leadership.
He also offered two reasons for the elevation, one being recognition that the command is maturing and second the recognition that elevation will help deal with threats that have grown in complexity, sophistication and continue to proliferate.
Regarding the former, Wilson noted that the cyber mission force — a 133 team, 6,200 person workforce serving as the maneuver elements of the command — is slated to reach the original goal of full operational capability by October 2018.
Wilson explained that they did a review two weeks ago with a combine team across the department and they’re on a glide path to compete the CMF build on time.
The elevation provides Cyber Command a bit more authority, Wilson said, in regard to joint force training responsibilities and the limited acquisition authority CYBERCOM was granted by Congress, noting that these authorities already existed in some capacity but elevation allows them to expand them.
In fact, CYBERCOM exercised this acquisition authority for the first time last month.
The elevation also allows Cyber Command to bring in additional resources, especially on the command and control side, Wilson explained. Specifically, he mentioned the new planning elements that will be stationed forward within the combatant commands providing consultation on what cyber capabilities can be brought to bear to get at certain mission objectives.
“Within command and control it’s putting elements out at each of the combatant commands [to work with] ... new forward elements that will sit with the combatant commanders to be able to work through all phases of conflict, all the capabilities Cyber Command brings — we’re very shallow there right now,” Wilson said. “That was a recognition about two years ago so we laid in the programmatics to make that happen.”
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.