WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Friday that he is elevating U.S. Cyber Command to a full combatant command, showing just how critical cyber operations have become to the American military.
The shift means U.S. Cyber Command will focus on developing offensive and defensive cyberweapons to use during war and on stopping cyberintrusions. The Pentagon has 60 days to officially decide whether to split CYBERCOM from the National Security Agency.
A senior defense official said that NSA and CYBERCOM will remain connected under one four-star commander "for now," while Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford ensure that splitting the two agencies into separate commands will not harm military effectiveness.
This review is mandated but military and defense officials are confident NSA and CYBERCOM will ultimately be split.
I have directed that U.S. Cyber Command be elevated to the status of a Unified Combatant Command focused on....cont: https://t.co/3iScfuMw9s— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 18, 2017
As a unified command, CYBERCOM will have the same authorities as U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command and other combatant commands with tens of thousands of service members and military assets.
CYBERCOM doesn't officially become a full unified combatant command until a four-star general officer or admiral is nominated and confirmed to lead the agency.
Currently, CYBERCOM and NSA are led by the same four-star commander, Adm. Mike Rogers, and both are stationed at Fort Meade. Lt. Gen. William Mayville is the leading contender to be nominated to head CYBERCOM, according to three defense officials.
Last year, Sen. John McCain warned President Obama that he would try to block any attempt to spin off CYBERCOM in the final months of his administration, arguing it made sense for the two entities to work hand-in-hand.