U.S. Cyber Command Chief Testifies on Challenges, Security Initiatives


Capt. Jason Simmons and Staff Sgt. Clinton Tips update anti-virus software for Air Force units to assist in the prevention of cyberspace hackers July 12 at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. The Air Force is setting up the Air Force Cyberspace Command soon and these Airmen will be the operators on the ground floor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)


WASHINGTON, April 5, 2016 — Over the past year U.S. Cyber Command has continued building capability and capacity and made progress in building its 133-team cyber mission force, all while operating at an increased tempo, Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers told a Senate panel today.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Cybercom commander said the cyber mission force — made up of 13 national mission teams, 68 cyber protection teams, 27 combat mission teams and 25 support teams — will be built and fully operational by Sept. 30, 2018.

“Today, we have 27 teams that are fully operational and 68 that have attained initial operational capability,” Rogers said.

“Even teams that are not fully operational are contributing to our cyberspace efforts, with nearly 100 teams conducting cyberspace operations today,” the admiral added. For example, the command continues to support U.S. Central Command’s efforts to degrade, dismantle and ultimately defeat ISIL, Rogers said.


Challenges, Innovation

Over the past year Rogers said Cybercom has seen an increase in cyberspace operations by state and non-state actors and a wide range of malicious cyber activities aimed against government and private sector targets.

“At U.S. Cyber Command, we focus on actors that pose a threat to our national interest through cyberspace,” he said, noting that nations still represent the gravest threats to national security, but that Cybercom continues to watch for signs of cyber capability improvements by non-state actors.

Malicious actors use cyberspace to steal intellectual property and citizens’ personal information and have intruded in DoD networks ranging from the Joint Staff’s unclassified network to networks controlling U.S. critical infrastructure, the admiral said.

“These threat actors are using cyberspace, I believe, to shape future operations with a view to limiting our options in the event of a crisis,” Rogers said. “Despite this challenging environment, U.S. Cyber Command continues to makes progress as it emphasizes shifts to operationalizing the command and sustaining capabilities.”

Cybercom has also established a partnership program in Silicon Valley “to link command personnel to some of the most innovative minds working in cyberspace,” he told the panel.

The program is collocated with the department’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, the admiral said, an innovation outpost designed to link technology companies with DoD needs for innovative products.

Full Unified Command

Since last fall, when the Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony from witnesses who recommended elevating Cyber Command to a full unified command, discussion has continued among the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and SASC member Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island democrat, said Defense Secretary Ash Carter is considering the recommendation as part of the Goldwater-­Nichols reform effort.

Rogers told the panel that Cybercom would benefit from the designation.

“What tends to drive [whether an organization] should be elevated to a combatant command broadly across the department,” he said, “[are] the imperatives of unity of command and unity of effort and … in this case … [whether] the function rises to a global level and is it of sufficient priority to merit coordination across the entire department?”

The other issue, Rogers said, is one of speed.

“My input to the process has been that a combatant command designation would allow us to be faster, which would generate better mission outcomes,” he said.

“I would also argue that the department’s processes of budget prioritization, strategy and policy are all generally structured to enable direct combatant commander input into those processes. That’s what they’re optimized for. I believe that cyber needs to be a part of that direct process,” the admiral noted.

Cybercom Priorities

In detailing Cybercom’s most urgent priorities, Rogers included defending the DoD networks, continuing to provide options for policymakers and integrating part of the cyber mission across the government.

“We clearly need a focus on ensuring, No. 1, that we’ve got our defensive house in order and that we’re able to defend our systems as well as our networks, and we need to think beyond just networks into our individual combat weapons,” the admiral said.

The second priority is to continue to generate the complete spectrum of capabilities to provide options for policymakers and operational commanders, he said, when cyber issues arise.

And lastly, Rogers added, “We’ve got to figure out how to bridge across not just the DoD but the entire U.S. government and the private sector about how we’re going to look at this problem set [of responding to critical cyber issues] in an integrated national way.


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