Monday, April 27, 2009

Pentagon Creates CyCOM

On April 21 the Pentagon revealed that information about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was stolen from the military's supposedly secure internal defense network. (Reports were unclear as to whether the information taken was secret.  Lockheed denied the fact.)  

The very next day, April 22, the Pentagon announced that it was in the process of rolling out a Cyber Command (CyCOM) to combat the exact type of breach that occurred concerning the F-35.  This command is to be the 11th combatant command and the 5th with a "functional responsibility" (e.g., Transportation Command).  

The task of creating such a command and getting it to function properly is enormous and presents previously unfaced challenges.  

Unlike a geographic command (e.g., CentCOM), cyberspace, and the potential attacks from it, is without boundaries.  Furthermore, the number of potential threats is growing daily as more and more individuals gain access to the Internet.  Unlike CentCOM or PacCOM which represent and protect military interests in their specific region, the new Cyber Command will have to protect US military assets around the world.  

It has been estimated that the Department of Defense is the single largest user of computers and networks in the entire world, including 11 million Internet users, 6 million PCs, and 10,000 networks.  And each potentially represents a door through which hostile (or even friendly) nations could gain valuable information about US defense programs.  Although protecting human populations and physical military assets (e.g., aircraft, Army bases) is easy to understand, the importance of having a unified Cyber Command to combat growing cyber security threats should not be downplayed. 

Currently military cyber security is conducted by the NSA, the Defense Information Systems Agency, and the Air Force.  (Domestic cyber security is headed by the Department of Homeland Security.)  Under the new Cyber Command the cyber defense portions of these agencies will have to be linked.  Unfortunately, because of the wide-ranging and varied tasks assigned to each of these agencies, putting them under one command could be a bit like rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic - a whole lot of usless work that doesn't address the real problem.  

I see great potential for a unified Cyber Command, but it will certainly be an undertaking so large in scope as to rival anything the military has previously attempted.  Although the battle cannot be seen, it is vital to continued US military superiority and should receive as much priority as the battles in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

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