Cyber operations poised to take centre stage in US - Jane’s Intelligence Review
US President Donald Trump announced on 18 August the elevation of the United States Cyber Command to a full combatant command. Tanner Johnson examines the implications of the elevation for the US intelligence community, and the opportunities and challenges that the new status will bring
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US Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), the nexus of the burgeoning arsenal of cyber capabilities of the United States, is set to be elevated to a unified combatant command (COCOM) after an 18 August order from President Donald Trump. The move will place the organisation on the same level as the existing six geographical and three functional unified COCOMs, and will set in motion its eventual separation from the National Security Agency (NSA) and the maturation of its role as the provider of military cyber options. However, six years after the command began operations, the question that is still occupying policy-makers is how military cyber operations and espionage will be divided.
NSA director and USCYBERCOM commander Admiral Michael Rogers takes questions during hiskeynote address to the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's sixth annualCybersecurity Technology Summit at the Capitol Hilton on 2 April 2015 in Washington, DC.USCYBERCOM is set to be elevated
Since its creation as a sub-unified COCOM in 2009, USCYBERCOM has been jointly housed and commanded with the NSA, first by General Keith Alexander, and since 2014 by Admiral Michael Rogers. The dual-hat role was intended to take advantage of the NSA's existing expertise in cyber while enabling USCYBERCOM to rapidly develop its own abilities. Although the two organisations have shared space at Fort Meade, Maryland, their legal authorities are starkly divided. Espionage is largely omitted from international law, whereas the laws for military operations are much more specifically delineated.
In the US, this division exists between two sections of the US Code, Title 10 (which covers the roles of the armed forces) and Title 50 (which includes chapters on espionage and similar activities). These provide differing legal justifications for the intelligence community and the military. The NSA got its start in cyber because of its responsibilities for signals intelligence, a role that inevitably led to an emphasis on cyber capacity given the development of computer technology. However, beyond intercepting communications, how the intelligence community will operate in the cyber domain, whether in offensive actions or more passive collection techniques, is still being mapped out. "The intelligence community is disproportionately in the business of collecting intelligence," Sue Gordon, the principal deputy director of national intelligence told Jane's in September 2017. "It's a blurry domain where we have to deconflict our activities, but what governs those activities is pretty clear."