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It’s Time For A Dedicated Military Cyber Force, Says Former NATO Commander

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It is time for the U.S. defense community to consider creating a dedicated cyber force in the U.S. military, unique from the other branches, retired Adm. James Stavridis told the Senate Thursday.

The former NATO commander and chief of U.S. European Command argued that the threat posed by inadequate cyber security will eventually require the military to create a unique cyber force. Stavridis praised the efforts of U.S. Cyber Command, which went fully operational in 2010, but noted that a combatant command may not be enough to confront such a massive challenge.

“United States Cyber Command declared Full Operational Capability (FOC) in 2010 and seven years later, despite the valiant and well-intentioned efforts of Admiral Mike Rogers and his predecessor, General Keith Alexander, the Cyber Mission Force has demonstrated to be a less than formidable and sustainable model,” Stavridis said in his written statement.

The Cyber Mission Force is tasked with defending the military’s information networks, supporting the missions in other combatant commands and defending U.S. infrastructure. U.S. Cybercom eventually wants the force to be made up of 133 teams capable of applying “military capability at scale in cyberspace,” Air Force Lt. Gen. James “Kevin” McLaughlin told the House Armed Services Committee in June.

Stavridis noted that of the 126 Air Force airmen who completed their first tour with the force, none were held over for a second tour.

“In other words, all 126 airmen were assigned to other Air Force missions with no cyber nexus whatsoever,” said Stavridis.

The former admiral argued that an independent cyber branch would “constitute a show of force,” and would send a message to both allies and enemies that the U.S. is committed to promoting career-long cyber warriors.

Stavridis admitted that the current military branches would be apprehensive of the creation of a dedicated cyber branch, but he pointed to the creation of the Air Force for comparison. The Navy and the Army were apprehensive to the idea of a dedicated air force for decades, but Stavridis noted the branch is now a key aspect to U.S. warfighting capability.

“The idea will be vehemently opposed by the services, just as the Army and Navy fought the idea of an Air Force,” said Stavridis. “But sooner or later, common sense tells us we will end up with a specialized force in this zone of combat.”

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