Senior military leaders are recommending that the Pentagon’s two-year-old cyberwarfare unit be elevated to full combatant command status, sending a signal to adversaries that the U.S. military is serious about protecting its ability to operate in cyberspace, officials said.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will recommend the change to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters. Final approval rests with President Obama. Little opposition is expected, though the timeline is uncertain.
A Pentagon spokesman, Capt. John Kirby, declined to discuss the pending move.
The elevation of Cyber Command to a level on a par with commands protecting entire regions and continents would give the nation’s top cyberwarriors more direct access to Dempsey and Panetta, allowing them more clout in the struggle for resources.
Created in 2010 at Fort Meade, Cyber Command employs about 750 people ”” far fewer than most combatant commands ”” and reports to Strategic Command, based in Omaha. The U.S. military has nine combatant commands, the newest of which, Africa Command, began operations in 2008.
U.S. officials say the establishment of a combatant command for cyberwar fits the administration’s multi-pronged cyber-strategy by projecting military force as a deterrent, even as efforts are ongoing in the diplomatic realm to reduce tensions with adversaries.