The Trump administration is pushing forward with its plan to make U.S. Cyber Command an independent organization in an effort to increase the nation’s offensive and defensive cyber capabilities.
Officials plan to split the military command from the National Security Agency (NSA), according to an Associated Press report published Saturday. Cyber Command (also known as CYBERCOM) currently operates under U.S. Strategic Command and is based with the NSA in Ft. Meade, Md. The goal is to free CYBERCOM from any constraints it may have by working in tandem with the NSA, according to anonymous officials who spoke to the AP.
CYBERCOM is commanded by the NSA director, currently Navy Adm. Mike Rogers, but it serves different purposes. The NSA is traditionally an intelligence agency, specializing in electronic signals collection, while CYBERCOM is responsible for offensive and defensive cyber warfare.
Despite the differences, attempts to separate the “dual-hat” role have not been without controversy. Ash Carter, the Obama administration’s last Secretary of Defense, pushed to separate the agencies so that the NSA’s intelligence gathering role would not impede U.S. ability to use cyber weapons against the Islamic State’s money making operations and online propaganda. He and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper reportedly suggested that Obama remove Rogers from his post.
The Trump administration’s decision comes at a time when cyber issues are at the forefront of national security. Investigations into Russian hacking of the 2016 election are ongoing. Additionally, the U.S. continues to face threats from foreign hacks from both state and non-state actors.
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