Trump elevates Cyber Command to bolster US digital warfare powers

By on 21/08/2017 | Updated on 04/02/2022
President Trump is giving America’s offensive cyber unit a similar status to more established arms of the USA’s defence operations.

US president Donald Trump has approved plans to beef up the powers of US Cyber Command, the military unit dedicated to digital warfare.

Cyber Command will now be elevated to the status of a full ‘unified combatant command’, giving it greater independence and placing cyber warfare on the same footing as traditional fields of battle such as land, sea and air.

“This new Unified Combatant Command will strengthen our cyberspace operations and create more opportunities to improve our nation’s defence. 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,” Trump said in a written statement released by the White House.

Assuring cash for cyber

Trump said that as well as streamlining cyberspace operations by consolidating them under a single commander, the elevation of Cyber Command will also ensure that “critical” cyberspace operations are adequately funded.

“Through United States Cyber Command, we will tackle our cyberspace challenges in coordination with like-minded allies and partners as we strive to respond rapidly to evolving cyberspace security threats and opportunities globally,” Trump said.

The elevation of cyber command reflects the growing threat from cyber warfare and the mounting pressure on governments worldwide to tackle adversaries such as the so-called Islamic State (IS) in the digital as well as physical arenas.

Inter-agency clashes

Cyber Command had hitherto been subordinate to US Strategic Command, and shared a director and an address with the National Security Agency (NSA).

Former president Barack Obama had faced pressure to split the directorship of the NSA and Cyber Command, due to mounting tensions between the two organisations’ respective objectives of electronic espionage and warfare. In the case of IS, it had been argued that the NSA’s desire to snoop on the terrorist network’s communications infrastructure was at odds with the growing desire for a more aggressive stance against IS’s digital activities – involving direct cyber attacks better undertaken by a military body such as Cyber Command.

Trump’s elevation of Cyber Command increases the likelihood that the two organisations will split entirely. However, the president said defence secretary Jim Mattis will examine the possibility of a formal divorce separately and make recommendations at a future date.

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See also:

New international centre to challenge state-led fake news and cyber attacks

Singapore tops UN cybersecurity ranking

New Australian cyber unit to target overseas criminals

Global ransomware attack used info stolen from NSA, says Microsoft

About Ben Willis

Ben Willis is a journalist and editor with a varied background reporting on topics including public policy, the environment, renewable energy and international development. His work has appeared in a variety of national newspapers including the Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Times, as well as numerous specialist business, policy and consumer publications.

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