US Cyber Command Is Now One Step Closer To Spinning Off From The NSA

by Kevin Collier on August 18, 2017

NSA commander Gen. Mike Rogers

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The United States’s cyberwar nerve center inside the military has gotten a promotion.

President Donald Trump announced via Twitter on Friday that US Cyber Command, the Department of Defense’s centralized hub for conducting offensive cyberattacks and protecting its networks against them, will be elevated to the level of a Unified Combatant Command.

The move, anticipated for several years now, gives USCYBERCOM more independent agency. But it’s perhaps most significant as a major step toward it eventually spinning off from the National Security Agency (NSA), whose primary mission is gathering overseas intelligence, into its own independent command.

Since it was first established in 2009, USCYBERCOM has always been helmed by whoever is director of the NSA at the time — a “dual hat” responsibility that critics of the setup, including many Pentagon leaders and former President Barack Obama have said is overwhelming for one person.

President Obama had recommended the reclassification as the end of his term neared, but it was unclear if Trump would continue down that path. As a presidential candidate, Trump often spoke of cybersecurity and war in controversial and confusing terms. On the campaign trail in October, Trump said of cyber capabilities that “America’s dominance in this arena must be unquestioned. And today it’s totally questioned.” The US, alongside allies like the UK, Australia, Israel, and France, are widely regarded as the most powerful nations in the world when it comes to cyber capabilities.

Critics of the idea of separation, however, note that in cyberspace, intelligence gathering sources often overlap with military targets, and fear that operations could conflict with one another. General Keith Alexander, the previous “dual hat” director before current General Mike Rogers, had also argued that if the were agencies distinct, the NSA could withhold key information that could be vital to USCYBERCOM.

It’s unclear when any full separation would take place. According to the White House’s announcement, Secretary of Defense James Mattis is reviewing the idea of separation, and will announce recommendations “at a later date.”

Originally Posted By BuzzFeed - Tech

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