In a statement, the president elevated the Pentagon’s U.S. Cyber Command to a Unified Combatant Command, making it one of the top organizations in the U.S. government. Its new title will let CyberCom use computer networks for military purposes without having to get permission from the U.S. Strategic Command, which is responsible for nuclear weapons and missile defense. The promotion makes it the 10th unified command, putting it at the same level as the Central Command and eight other top organizations. CyberCom was created in 2010 to lead offensive cyberspace operations and protect the Pentagon.
“This new Unified Combatant Command will strengthen our cyberspace operations and create more opportunities to improve our Nation’s defense,” Trump said. “The elevation of United States Cyber Command demonstrates our increased resolve against cyberspace threats and will help reassure our allies and partners and deter our adversaries.”
The long-delayed status upgrade, which was previously considered by the Obama administration, will give Cyber Command more resources and power to aid in the military’s efforts against terrorist groups.
Last year, military leaders reportedly questioned Cyber Command’s focus on “traditional adversaries” and felt the unit wasn’t doing enough to combat the Islamic State, according to a New York Times report.
The move strengthens the U.S. ability to interfere with the military programs of North Korea and ISIS, and it will create a cyber version of the nuclear doctrine of “mutual assured destruction,” three unnamed U.S. intelligence officials told Reuters.
Trump also said his administration is considering splitting Cyber Command from the National Security Agency and that Secretary of Defense James Mattis would give his recommendation “at a later date.”
“At the moment, we have the NSA, which is part of the intelligence community, managed by the Department of Defense, and CyberCom, which is a combat group whose first job is to protect,” former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told TechCrunch. “We had them both in the same location and able to work with one another. That has worked very well, but it is not necessarily the right approach.”