Despite the fact the U.S. military has been conducting cyber operations for over two decades, codifying those operations into a single organization, U.S. Cyber Command, could lead to growing pains.
Army Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, in written responses to questions prior to his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee March 1, provided some insight into what might change within the current structure.
In response to a specific question, Nakasone noted that a more robust command and control structure was required to better support joint force command requirements. To do this, Cyber Command, among other measures, recently stood up cyber operations-integrated planning element cells at the combatant commands, which will help coordinate offensive and defensive cyber effects into campaign plans.
These cells will hopefully be at full operational capability within the next five years with around under 40 people staffing each one, current Cyber Command commander Adm. Michael Rogers wrote in testimony to the same committee earlier this week.
Nakasone also addressed the infrastructure the command uses to conduct operations. Separate from ongoing discussions to sever the dual hat relationship between Cyber Command and NSA, officials have always maintained Cyber Command would need its own infrastructure and tools from NSA, an intelligence organization.
“Operating under the constraint of the intelligence authorities that govern NSA infrastructure and tools would severely limit USCYBERCOM’s ability to effectively support wartime cyber operations,” Nakasone said in response to a question about whether Cyber Command could conduct wartime operations effectively if they were only able to use NSA’s tools and infrastructure.
“The Department is properly investing in building USCYBERCOM’s own organic abilities to support combat operations,” Nakasone wrote.
During his testimony before the committee, Nakasone said his top priority will be assessing the readiness of the cyber mission force to ensure they can carry out their missions.
Nakasone also indicated he’d like to further assess the cyber mission force to see if any adjustments to force mix, size and employment would be warranted.
“[T]he Department does not see [full operational capability] criteria as the desired end-state of CMF capability,” he wrote. “As we actively employ these Teams in operations, we continue to mature our understanding of how to strengthen the mission readiness of this force. The Department has made significant investments in cyber payloads and toolsets for the CMF, a formal study is currently underway to more comprehensively inform requirements based on lessons learned from recent operations.”
Rogers attested to something similar before the committee earlier this week.
“The thought was the cyber forces we created would be permanently aligned. I argue it’s not going to get us where we need to be,” he said.
Nakasone pointed out that the balance between offensive, defense and support/intelligence teams could also be reevaluated as the current balance “is an initial starting point.”
The current CMF breaks down into 13 National Mission Teams that defend the nation; 68 cyber protection teams that work to defend DoD networks; 27 combat mission teams that provide support to combatant commanders and generate effects in support of operational plans and contingencies, and; 25 support teams that provide analytic and planning support to the national mission teams.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.