With help from the services, U.S. Cyber Command continually increases its Cyber Mission Forces’ readiness to hold targets that are at risk amid the intensified pace of international conflict in cyberspace threats, the Cybercom commander told a Senate panel here today.
Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers, also director of the National Security Agency and the Central Security Service, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the state of his command.
“Hardly a day has gone by during my tenure at Cyber Command that we have not seen at least one significant cybersecurity event occurring somewhere in the world,” Rogers told the senators, noting that the command and the Defense Department face a growing variety of advanced threats from actors who operate with ever more sophistication, speed and precision.
Cyber Command tracks state and nonstate adversaries as they expand capabilities to advance their interests in cyberspace and try to undermine U.S. national interests and those of the nation’s allies, the admiral said.
“Conflict in the cyber domain is not simply a continuation of kinetic operations by digital means,” he added. “It's unfolding according to its own logic, which we are continuing to better understand, and we are using this understanding to enhance the department and the nation's situational awareness and management of risk."
April 26, 2017 - Army National Guard, Air National Guard and Army Reserve service members and civilian information technology experts prepare to engage as the opposing force, or "Red Cell" for exercise Cyber Shield 17 at Camp Williams, Utah. Cyber Shield 17 is a National Guard exercise designed to assess participants’ ability to respond to cyber incidents. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Giles)
Cybercom’s three lines of operations provide mission assurance for Defense Department operations and defend the department’s information environment, support joint force commander objectives globally, and deter or defeat strategic threats to U.S. interests and critical infrastructure. The command conducts full-spectrum military cyberspace operations to enable actions in all domains, ensure U.S. and allied freedom of action in cyberspace and deny freedom of action to adversaries, the admiral said.
“Defense of DoD’s information networks remains our top priority, of course, and that includes weapon systems, platforms and data. We are completing the build out of the cyber mission force … with all teams scheduled to be fully operational by the end of fiscal year ,” Rogers added, noting that with help from the services the command continually increases cyber mission force readiness to hold targets at risk.
Unified Combatant Command
Rogers said that Cybercom now is complying with the recent National Defense Authorization Act directive to elevate it to unified combatant command status. From its beginnings in 2009, Cybercom has been a subunified command under U.S. Strategic Command.
The admiral noted that he serves as commander of U.S. Cyber Command and as director of the National Security Agency.
“This dual-hat appointment underpins the close partnership between Cyber Command and NSA, a significant benefit in cyberspace operations,” Rogers said. But the institutional arrangement for providing that support may evolve as Cybercom grows to full proficiency in the future, he added.
In a separate provision, Rogers explained, the NDAA described conditions for splitting the dual-hat arrangement once that can happen without impairing either organization’s effectiveness.
Over the coming year, Rogers said, he would engage with committee members to enhance the command's responsibilities and authorities by increasing cyber manpower, increasing cyber workforce professionalization, building capacity and developing and streamlining acquisition processes. “These are critical enablers for cyberspace operations in a dynamically changing global environment,” he said.
The admiral added that Cybercom works to secure and defend DoD systems and networks, counter adversaries and support national and joint warfighter objectives in and through cyberspace. The command's operational successes have validated concepts for creating cyber effects in the battlefield and beyond, he noted.
Innovations are constantly emerge out of operational necessity and the real-world experiences the cyber workforce has in meeting the requirements of national decision makers, and joint force commanders continue to refine operational approaches and effectiveness, Rogers said.
“This, combined with agile policies, faster decision-making processes, increased capabilities, broader concepts of operations and smarter command-and-control structures will ensure that Cyber Command obtains its full potential for countering adversaries' cyber strategies,” the admiral added.
“I've seen growth in the command size, budget and missions, [and] that investment of resources, time and effort is paying off. And more importantly, it's helping keep Americans safer -- not only in cyberspace, but in other domains as well,” he said.
By Cheryl Pellerin
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