Pentagon Plans New Military Command to Prepare for Cyberwar

By Matthew Harwood

With President Barack Obama set to announce his plans to defend U.S. critical infrastructure from cyberattacks today, The New York Times leads with the Pentagon's plan to create a new military command for cyberspace.

Although Obama will not discuss the military side of cyberdefense and cyberwar today, he is expected to sign a classified order creating the new cybercommand in the coming weeks.

The move, reports the Times, is recognition that cyberwarfare will feature prominently in the U.S. military's arsenal.

Officials declined to describe potential offensive operations, but said they now viewed cyberspace as comparable to more traditional battlefields.

“We are not comfortable discussing the question of offensive cyberoperations, but we consider cyberspace a war-fighting domain,“ said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman. “We need to be able to operate within that domain just like on any battlefield, which includes protecting our freedom of movement and preserving our capability to perform in that environment.”

Although Pentagon civilian officials and military officers said the new command was expected to initially be a subordinate headquarters under the military’s Strategic Command, which controls nuclear operations as well as cyberdefenses, it could eventually become an independent command.

The big decision facing the White House will be whether the Pentagon or the National Security Agency (NSA) will take the lead in cyberoffensive capabilities.Under one proposal, reports the Times, portions of the NSA would be folded into the military's new cybercommand. The NSA is believed to be the most talented agency when it comes to cyberwarfare.

The debate on whether to place cyberoffensive capabilities in the Pentagon or the NSA or both hinges on one crucial detail: U.S. law forbids intelligence agencies like the NSA from operating on domestic soil.

As one senior intelligence official told the Times recently, "“It’s the domestic spying problem writ large. These attacks start in other countries, but they know no borders. So how do you fight them if you can’t act both inside and outside the United States?”

♦ Photo by Barrybar/Flickr


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