WASHINGTON, June 24, 2009 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates signed a memo yesterday establishing a subcommand focused on cyber security, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters today.

Details about the new U.S. Cyber Command, which will report to U.S. Strategic Command, still are unfolding. But Gates reportedly plans to recommend Army Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, to receive his fourth star and take on the additional responsibility of commanding the cyber command.

Initial indications are that the cyber command will have its headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., pending results of an environmental impact statement.

“This is not some sort of new and necessarily different authorities that have been granted,” Morrell told reporters today. “This is about trying to figure out how we, within this department, within the United States military, can better coordinate the day-to-day defense, protection and operation of the department’s computer networks.”

Morrell emphasized that the new command will focus solely on military networks.

Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III noted the importance of cyber security to national defense last week at the Center for International and Strategic Studies.

“Just like our national dependence, there is simply no exaggerating our military dependence on our information networks: the command and control of our forces, the intelligence and logistics on which they depend, the weapons technologies we develop and field – they all depend on our computer systems and networks,” Lynn said. “Indeed, our 21st century military simply cannot function without them.”

Because cyberspace is critical to joint military operations, it’s critical that the Defense Department ensure they’re protected, Air Force Lt. Col. Eric Butterbaugh, a Defense Department spokesman, told American Forces Press Service.

“To do this, the Department of Defense needs to ensure it has the right balance of integrated cyber capabilities,” Butterbaugh said. “We’re increasingly dependent on cyberspace, and there’s a growing array of cyber threats. To effectively address this risk to its networks, the Defense Department requires a command possessing the required technical capability and which remains focused on streamlining cyberspace operations.”

Morrell called the standup of Cyber Command an internal reorganization that will consolidate and streamline its cyber capabilities within a single command. The effort in no way represents any attempt by the department to “militarize” cyberspace or take over the responsibility for defending civilian networks, he said, noting that responsibility falls to the Homeland Security Department.

“This is part of a holistic, governmentwide effort to better organize and situate ourselves to deal with this very real threat,” he said. “And it is a complement to efforts that are taking place elsewhere within the United States government.”

Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicated during a June 4 address at the Center for International and Strategic Studies that a decision on the new subcommand was in the works.

“There will be a cyber capability at the tactical level, and … we do deploy it forward,” Cartwright said. “There is an operational level, which tends to be based regionally, and there is a strategic capability. And we will, over the next few days, start to roll out the organizational constructs associated with that.”

Up Next

Army’s increased emphasis on safety has reduced accidental deaths since 2005

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2009 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates signed a memo yesterday…