Cyberwarfare is now as important as conventional war… in theory.
After months of talk and planning, US Cyber Command is now just as important as the rest of the Pentagon’s commands — at least, on paper. The military has officially elevated its cyberwarfare division to a “unified command” that operates independently of the NSA. It’s not a complete split. General Paul Nakasone (shown above) will run both Cyber Command and the NSA, replacing Admiral Michael Rogers.
The change in structure comes as the US is readying an Integrated Cyber Center that will help both the country and its allies plan responses to cyberattacks.
Nakasone has vowed a more aggressive response to online threats, whether they come from Russia, China or elsewhere. He’s concerned that adversarial nations won’t back off unless they face more serious repercussions for their actions. In the past, American officials have been hesitant to launch attacks against major powers knowing that the US is heavily dependent on a digital infrastructure that might buckle under the weight of a large cyberwarfare campaign.
Whether or not this shuffle actually changes Cyber Command’s practices isn’t certain. In addition to Nakasone’s shared leadership, there’s the question of whether or not this will prompt changes in policy beyond the potential for harsher responses. Right now, the changeover is mostly symbolic — it’s clear the US sees cyberwarfare as important, but the elevated command will have to flex its muscles if it wants to show that it’s truly on par with its conventional peers.
In 2015 the U.S. Cyber Command added 133 new cyber teams. The breakdown was:
- thirteen National Mission Teams to defend against broad cyberattacks;
- sixty-eight Cyber Protection Teams to defend priority DoD networks and systems against priority threats;
- twenty-seven Combat Mission Teams to provide integrated cyberspace attacks in support of operational plans and contingency operations; and
- twenty-five Support Teams to provide analytic and planning support.
DoD quietly reorganizes Cyber Command
January 9, 2018
U.S. Cyber Command has quietly reorganized its hierarchy to include a second deputy, a three-star general who reports to the commander.
The move comes after President Donald Trump, in accordance with congressional mandate, directed Cyber Command to elevate to a full unified combatant command out from under Strategic Command. It also takes place as the agency prepares for a new commander with the expected retirement of Adm. Michael Rogers this spring.
As a result of the reorganization, Fifth Domain has learned that Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville is serving as deputy commander at the organization. The position did not previously exist, and the Pentagon did not announce Mayville’s move to the new job.
The Defense Department announced in June that Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, who most recently served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, was nominated to serve as the deputy commander of Cyber Command.
According to congressional records, both Mayville and Stewart were confirmed to the rank of lieutenant general on July 31 while “assigned to a position of importance and responsibility.” That’s pro forma language attached to most major nomination positions.
The organizational change, according to a congressional staffer who requested anonymity to speak more freely, is aimed at helping navigate the command through the elevation and eventual split from the National Security Agency without interrupting the regular day-to-day activities.
Stewart is focused on the regular duties a deputy fills while Mayville was brought in to focus intently on the work necessary for elevation. This is also viewed as a temporary setup, the staffer said, and Congress likely wouldn’t support making a two-deputy construct permanent.
Previously, there has been no public announcement of Mayville’s move from the Joint Staff, where he had served as the director, or his appointment to Cyber Command or the creation of a dual deputy command. Officials have noted that the lack of notification was not necessarily done with malice or secrecy in mind.
Earlier this year, the Senate Armed Services Committee held the Stewart and Mayville nominations as Congressional staffers pushed the Defense Department for justification on the move. In response, DoD leaders said they didn’t want to disrupt the day-to-day operations of the command or distract it from all the elements involved with elevation and the eventual split from NSA.
A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment for this story.
According to a Cyber Command official, it makes sense to have experienced leadership in the organization to facilitate these moves, especially considering the complexity of CYBERCOM’s relationship to the intelligence community and the dual hat status with the NSA.
Mayville has also been widely reported as a top candidate to be the commander of a unified Cyber Command, but he is not the only candidate. Army Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, the head of Army Command, has also been linked to the position in some reports.
Mayville’s previous position — director of the Joint Staff — is often considered a stepping stone to four-star command positions.
The issue of separating from NSA from Cyber Command and elevating Cyber Command is viewed by officials in DoD and Congress as two distinct issues.
Officials have noted in the past that the item currently pacing the elevation of Cyber Command to a full command is the Senate’s confirmation of a new leader, but there is no formal timeline for that nomination.
From Congress’s view, the staffer said, it’s unclear what DoD’s timelines are regarding splitting the dual hat, if there’s a timeline at all. The staffer added that Congressional officials have not seen the same sense of urgency surrounding this issue from the Trump administration to split the NSA and Cyber Command as exhibited by the Obama administration.
Members aren’t pushing for a rapid separation of the dual hat, the staffer noted. Instead, they want to make sure the split is done in a cautions and meaningful way, which is the intention of last year’s defense authorization bill.
Defense News reporter Joe Gould contributed to this report.