23 June 2009
Military’s new cyber command now online
By Agence France-Presse

The US military has set up a new “cyberspace” command designed to bolster the country’s defenses against threats to computer networks and to wage digital warfare, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates formally established the command — the country’s first — that would operate initially under US Strategic Command, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told AFP.

The command will begin operating in October and be fully operational in October 2010, Whitman said.

The move reflects a shift in military strategy with “cyber dominance” now part of US war doctrine and amid growing alarm over the perceived threat posed by digital espionage coming from China, Russia and elsewhere.

US officials say China has built up a sophisticated cyber warfare program and that a spate of intrusions in the United States and elsewhere can be traced back to Chinese sources.

The officer widely expected to lead the command is Lieutenant General Keith Alexander, the director of the super-secret National Security Agency (NSA).

Alexander has described cyberspace as the new military frontier that could shape the future of US national security, comparing it to sea or air power.

In a speech last month, he said new realities had forced the Pentagon to place a higher priority on cyberspace.

“The rapid expansion and global dependence upon cyberspace required the defense department to evolve its warfighting doctrine to include cyberspace as a viable domain on par with the domains of land, sea, air and space,” he said.

Defense officials have said the cyber command would focus on security efforts along with offensive capabilities to ensure “freedom of action in cyberspace” for the United States.

Reported breaches of the US electricity grid and of networks used by aerospace contractors building the F-35 fighter jet have underlined concerns over cyber security.

The US Defense Department several months ago was faced with a worm that intruded military networks.

President Barack Obama has put a top priority on cyber security and announced plans for a national cyber defense coordinator.

A recent White House policy review said that “cybersecurity risks pose some of the most serious economic and national security challenges of the 21st century.”

Obama has promised privacy rights would be carefully safeguarded even as the government moves to step up efforts to protect sensitive civilian and military networks.

Global Network