After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation’s military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America’s ability to wage cyberwar against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to U.S. officials.
Under the plans, U.S. Cyber Command would eventually be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency.
Details are still being worked out, but officials say they expect a decision and announcement in the coming weeks. The officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter so requested anonymity.
The goal, they said, is to give U.S. Cyber Command more autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet and other intelligence data from around the world — a responsibility that can sometimes clash with military operations against enemy forces.
Making cyber an independent military command will put the fight in digital space on the same footing as more traditional realms of battle on land, in the air, at sea and in space. The move reflects the escalating threat of cyberattacks and intrusions from other nation states, terrorist groups and hackers, and comes as the U.S. faces ever-widening fears about Russian hacking following Moscow’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 American election.
The U.S. has long operated quietly in cyberspace, using it to collect information, disrupt enemy networks and aid conventional military missions. But as other nations and foes expand their use of cyberspying and attacks, the U.S. is determined to improve its ability to incorporate cyber operations into its everyday warfighting.
Experts said the command will need time to find its footing.
“Right now I think it’s inevitable, but it’s on a very slow glide path,” said Jim Lewis, a cybersecurity expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But, he added, “A new entity is not going to be able to duplicate NSA’s capabilities.”
The NSA, for examples, has 300 of the country’s leading mathematicians “and a gigantic super computer,” Lewis said. “Things like this are hard to duplicate.”
He added, however, that over time, the U.S. has increasingly used cyber as a tactical weapon, bolstering the argument for separating it from the NSA.
The two highly secretive organizations, based at Fort Meade, Maryland, have been under the same four-star…