News that the United States Cyber Command is breaking off from the National Security Agency recently surfaced, with U.S. officials claiming the move as an effort to strengthen the country’s ability to conduct defensive and offensive cyber operations.

According to various news sources, the goal of the reported separation is to make Cyber Command independent from the constraints of the intelligence-focused NSA so that it can fully become more military-aligned with a strong focus on digital warfare.

Acting on Strategic Relevance

Cybersecurity issues have taken center-stage recently due to the national issues and global malware attacks. With modern nations being heavily invested in technological progress, an attack that can create doubt in our nation’s ability to govern, our individual ability to make a living, and our capacity as a state to conduct free and open commerce constitutes a grave matter that requires serious, focused attention.

Taking Cybersecurity Seriously

“The split has two major implications,” says Joseph “J” Kinder, MetroStar’s Director of Cyber Operations and Tactics. “First, it indicates that the U.S. is taking the cyber fight seriously enough to establish Cyber Command as a peer Combatant Commander.”

While this split could indeed result in mission focus and empowerment for Cyber Command, the key disadvantage is that the resources and authorities needed to execute a mission will not be as readily available as they currently are under the NSA. Cyber Command shares many of the same training environments, command and control structures, and physical infrastructure as NSA. One of the crucial elements that Cyber Command might have less access to is NSA’s knowledge resources. This could indicate a shaky start, and Cyber Command would need a certain level of hand-holding from the NSA with regard to facilities and processes, but ultimately, Cyber Command is deemed as an entity whose purpose exceeds the intelligence-gathering function of NSA and should be treated as such.

Drawing the Line

Kinder adds, “The second implication of the reported split is that it serves to empower the nation’s cybersecurity specialists—to boost the morale of the young Cyber warriors that constitute the backbone of the Department of Defense’s Cyber Mission Force. As a counterbalance, this will also allow the NSA to focus on core missions, being a world premier Signals Intelligence Agency and Information Assurance leader for National Security Systems.”

Cyber Command has been under the same leadership as NSA since its establishment in 2009. Both entities are currently led by Admiral Mike Rogers, but according to the Associated Press, Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville would reportedly be nominated to lead Cyber Command.

As the cyber ecosystem rapidly evolves on a global scale, there is a greater need to focus on protecting and bolstering our national cybersecurity strategy. Ultimately, despite the potential cutback of resources it may suffer, the independence of Cyber Command is a step towards enhanced national security on the cyber frontline.

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