Nearly six years after the cyber warrior force – made up of personnel from all four service branches and the U.S. Coast Guard – became fully operational as a subordinate unit of USSTRATCOM, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R- Texas, is asking: “Isn’t it time for CYBERCOM to stand on its own as a combatant command?”
Thornberry posed the question Wednesday to Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Thomas Atkin, senior advisor to Defense Secretary Ash Carter on cyber warfare, whose response indicates the Pentagon is leaning in that direction.
“The simple answer is ‘Yes’,” Atkin told Thornberry, though followed with some remarks suggesting it might not be so cut and dry.
“We are continuing to look at that within the department,” he said. “The secretary … has been evaluating whether to stand up cyber, or recommend to the president stand up CYBERCOM as its own unified command. So we are continuing to look at it but I think we are getting close to a decision and we’ll be getting something to the President here in the near future.”
Thornberry also noted that CYBERCOM commander Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers has previously testified that operating as a unified command “would make CYBERCOM faster, and that means better CYBERCOM outcomes.”
“I have yet to hear a reason not to do it,” Thornberry told Atkin. “We shouldn’t stew around about it too long, because if our goal is better outcomes, and if that’s what the result [would be] we should be able to agree and get that done without delay.”
Thornberry told Atkin the committee is trying “to help” the DoD along, since the Defense Authorization Act requires that it be done.
The White House last month signaled it did not want Congress’ help in deciding CYBERCOMMAND’s status, however, threatening to veto a House bill that would mandate the change. The White House said it wants to hear from the Defense Department what would be best.