Pentagon to Regionalize Cyber Response Capabilities

Tuesday, June 12, 2012



The Pentagon is moving forward with plans to decentralize aspects of the department's command structure where cyber operations are concerned.

A framework for the initiative based on recommendations drafted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff last January would create joint cyber centers (JCCs) under the direction of geographic combatant commanders.

The JCC's would provide greater authority both defensively and offensively on a regional level and are intended to act as the “nexus for combatant command cyberspace enterprise.”

“It is imperative that we move quickly and put the transitional framework in place as soon as possible... Although I expect you may find that you need additional resources to implement a complete and enduring C2 [command and control] framework within your commands, speed is important,” wrote Defense Secretary Leon Panetta of the plan.

Prior to the the reorganization, regional combatant commanders had restricted capabilities and access to resources, which largely have been the domain of U.S. Cyber Command.

The initiative seeks to further integrate cyber capabilities in a uniform manner with the more traditional aspects of military operations.

“Although cyberspace presents some very unique characteristics, this transitional model is designed to continue DoD’s efforts at normalizing cyber as an integrated function with other land, maritime, air and space functions,” DoD spokesperson Lt. Col. April Cunningham said.

The current framework is considered to be transitional in nature, and is expected to be modified over time. One of the chief concerns in the implementation of the reorganization is the limited availablitiy of personelle with sufficient expertise to fully develop the multiple JCC's capabilities.

“While we are operating under constrained resources and this may not be perfect, the need to move quickly in getting better organized for increased effectiveness of command and control in cyberspace is vital as cyber threats continue to grow in scope, magnitude and sophistication," Cunningham continued.

The evolution of the strategy is not without its logistical obstacles, and the framework is careful to recognize that the effectiveness of the JCCs will still depend on maintaining a strong centralized command structure while allowing the regional commands greater latitude in conducting operations as threats are identified.

“Some cyberspace operations can be contained within an AOR [area of responsibility], and are of immediate interest to a specific GCC [geographic combatant command] and its components; however, most cyberspace operations have the potential to cause simultaneous effects at the global, theater and local levels that make them trans-regional in nature and of interest to a broader community. Given this complex interrelationship, providing all cyber support forward in the GCCs is neither feasible nor desirable. Many cyber capabilities can be provided through, and in some cases only through, reachback,” the framework document states.

“At the same time, GCCs must be able to operate and defend tactical and constructed networks or be assured their critical networks are operated and defended, and synchronize cyber activities related to accomplishing their operational objectives,” the document continued.

The push for the development of the JCCs is in accordance with a larger DoD initiative to further integrate cyberspace as a theater of operations, as well as refining the military's role in defending public and private networks against aggression, which necessitates a thorough evaluation of current rules of engagement in regards to the Law of Armed Conflict.

“The [DoD] is currently conducting a thorough review of the existing rules of engagement for cyberspace. We are working closely with the Joint Staff on the implementation of a transitional command and control model for cyberspace operations. This interim framework will standardize existing organizational structures and command relationships across the department for the application of the full spectrum of cyberspace capabilities,” said assistant defense secretary for global strategic affairs Madelyn Creedon in Congressional testimony last March.

The final version of the framework is expected to be completed within the next year.


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Government Military DoD Cyber Security Headlines Pentagon Cyber Offense Cyber Defense U.S. Cyber Command Law of Armed Conflict
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