Cybercom Becomes DoD’s 10th Unified Combatant Command

In August, the President of the United States announced that he had directed U.S. Cyber Command to be elevated to a unified combatant command. That has since become official.

Cyber Command was established as a unified combatant command May 4 during a ceremony at the Integrated Cyber Center/Joint Operations Center on Fort Meade, Maryland. It also doubled as a change of command ceremony for its new leader, Army Lt. Gen Paul M. Nakasone, whose new assignment comes with a promotion to four-star general.

Until the elevation, U.S. Cyber Command was a sub-unified command established in 2009 under U.S. Strategic Command. It has since grown significantly, as has the Defense Department’s cyber strategy. Now, Cybercom will be at the same level as Stratcom and the other unified combatant commands.

The move reflects the increase in cybersecurity threats from across the globe, recognized by the DoD in the National Defense Strategy. In 2004, the DoD officially recognized cyberspace as a warfighting domain.

So what, exactly, does this elevation do? It means the department is being reorganized under a single commander.

Army Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone. Army photo by Steven Stover

“It consolidates the authorities in terms of the direct synchronization of resources, training, as well as the operational planning and execution,” explained Kenneth Rapuano, the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security.

In particular, this will help streamline command and control of time sensitive cyberspace operations. It’ll also ensure that critical missions are adequately funded and create more opportunities to strengthen U.S. defense efforts, reassure allies and deter adversaries, who will see we’re embracing the shift from traditional warfare.

Navy Adm. Mike Rogers, Cybercom’s current commander, is retiring after 37 years of service. When Nakasone takes command at Cybercom, his position will be considered equal to that of other combatant commanders, and he’ll be able to report directly to Defense Secretary James Mattis.

“The elevation of Cybercom demonstrates to international partners and adversaries our stake in cyberspace and shows that DoD is prioritizing efforts to build cyber defense and resilience,” Rogers said in a February statement.

Navy Rear Adm. Timothy White, commander, Cyber National Mission Force, U.S. Cyber Command, shares feedback with students attending the Joint Cyber Analysis Course at the Information Warfare Training Command Corry Station, April 12, 2018. Photo by Glenn Sircy of Center for Information Warfare Training Public Affairs

Cybercom has been active in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Its Joint Task Force Ares has provided important support to U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command in the campaign to defeat ISIS on the ground in Iraq and Syria.

The personnel buildout of the Cyber Mission Force is expected to be complete by Sept. 30. It will include nearly 6,200 personnel organized into 133 teams consisting of active-duty service members, as well as members of the Reserve and National Guard.

READ MORE: The DoD’s Cyber Strategy

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