U.S. Cyber Operations Headed for Restructure

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Plans to revitalize the United States’ military command for cyber operations are finally being set after months of deliberation and discussion. The Trump Administration hopes that new policy changes will allow the U.S. to improve cyberattacks and defense against ISIS and other enemies. Plans include the separation of the U.S. Cyber Command from the National Security Agency (NSA). The Seattle Times reported that the Trump Administration hopes to “give the U.S. Cyber Command more autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet and other intelligence data from around the world.” The NSA, which has long been focused on gathering intelligence, hinders more aggressive cyber warfare. According to U.S. officials familiar with the debate, the NSA prioritized gathering intelligence from ISIS networks over attacking them, causing conflicts within the organization. The separation of the Cyber Command will allow the NSA to continue to focus on gathering intelligence while allowing another entity to incorporate cyber operations into the nation’s military warfare. Lauren Fish, a research associate with the Center for a New American Security, said that the “NSA is truly an intelligence-collection organization. It should be collecting information, writing reports on it. Cyber Command is meant to be an organization that uses tools to have military operational effect.”

The pressure for more aggressive cyber warfare comes after an increasing amount of cyberattack threats from other nation-states and terrorist groups, as well as concerns from the U.S. of Russian hacking after Moscow’s attempts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. Jim Lewis, a cybersecurity expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, believes that “a new entity is not going to be able to duplicate NSA’s capabilities.” But it will be a long time before the U.S. Cyber Command will be able to match the power of the NSA, which employs “300 of the country’s leading mathematicians and a giant supercomputer, Lewis said. The U.S. Cyber Command is on a slow path to being battle-ready, but since its creation in 2009 under the Obama administration, it has employed more than 700 military and civilian employees.

Photo courtesy AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File (http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/us-finalizing-plans-to-revamp-cyber-command/)