In June 2009, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates approved an initiative to start Cyber Command, a subdivision of U.S. Strategic Command that would be responsible for the defense and coordination of all the computer networks under military command. General Keith Alexander is heading up the operation, and his Senate approval for the position is what has been delaying the process. Now, reports Cnet, the order to launch is official, and Cyber Command will open its doors October 1st, 2010. It will manage 15,000 networks in 4,000 military bases in 88 countries, and is seen as a vital and necessary overhaul of the militarys offensive and defensive capabilities in the arena of cyber warfare. In other words, this isnt going to be the militarys IT department and helpdesk. The headquarters, located in Fort Meade, MD, will employ 1,000 people dedicated to enforcing digital boundries.
However good this may be for the military, there are numerous hurdles that have yet to be cleared. Many of them involve the nature of "cyber warfare" in general, and the jurisdiction Cyber Command has when interagency operations overlap. What is considered a cyber-crime? What is considered an appropriate response to cyber-crime? How will we effectively coordiate our policies with international law? These, and many other legal issues, are wrinkles that are being, and will continue to be, ironed out as the division grows and matures.
Much like the ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have had to adapt to changing warfare environments, namely the tactical shift to confusing and cramped urban jungles, CyberCom understands that their biggest threats arent going to come from the big guns. Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn III has been spearheading and supporting CyberCom from its beginnings. He echoes the idea that the combat and policy philosophy at CyberCom will be very different than at other agencies.
"It doesnt take the resources of a nation state to launch cyberwar. Nations still have the best capabilities, but you can do very threatening and damaging things with modest investments...Our ability to predict where the threats are coming [from], even in conventional threats, is remarkably poor. We didnt see Desert Storm coming. We didnt see the series of events that led to Afghanistan. Foreseeing the threats in cyberspace is harder. With Cyber Command, I think we need to be prepared for the unexpected."
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