New Cyber COCOM Likely

New Cyber COCOM Likely

UPDATED: With resignation of leader of the National Cybersecurity Center.

The Pentagon is likely to take the rare action of adding a new combatant commander, this one for cyber warfare. COCOMs, as they are known, are the four-star generals who actually plan and fight the nation’s wars.

And in a sign of just how turbulent the battle over who will control cyber warfare has become, the head of the National Cybersecurity Center — in effect the top cyber official at DHS — has resigned. Rod Beckström has spoken out against the idea of having the NSA lead cyber issues. A close observer of the cyber world told me over the weekend that Beckström’s resignation appeared to come in reaction to recent statements by Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair supporting NSA as the lead federal agency on cyber warfare and security issues.

“Given Beckstrom’s words against NSA and the statement that Adm. Blair made about 10 days ago strongly advocating NSA having a leading role, he probably felt that he couldn’t move this where he wanted it to go,” our observer noted. The crux of the matter, as so often in Washington, was money. “ODNI controls the money that goes to DHS in this area,” the source said. Click here to read Blair’s comments before the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been considering the idea of a cyber COCOMs for months and several senior cyberwarfare officials said he is likely to move on this soon after the White House finishes a 60-day study underway on the major policy, strategic, organizational and operational issues facing the country when it comes to cyber war and cyber security.

The Joint Chiefs, comprised of the service heads, have no combat authority. They train, prepare and equip the nation’s warriors.

The one conventional capability that spans the globe, cyber warfare currently is the responsibility of Strategic Command, which hands off most of the day-today duties to the National Security Agency. And StratCom, which has the command lead, lacks funding for the mission.

“StratCom has the UCP [Unified Command Plan] authority, but the services have the money and that is not the right structure for a warfighting system,” Vice Adm. Nancy Brown, the Joint Staff’s director for C4 systems, told the conference.

The 60-day study is led by Melissa Hathaway, acting senior director for cyberspace for the National Security and Homeland Security councils. This is all part of a final effort to resolve a major stumbling block to effective cooperation and policymaking — stubborn battles between the NSA, Strategic Command, services and the Defense Information Systems Agency over just who has the biggest cyber muscles on the block.

The frustrations about this battle were addressed head-on during a cyber conference held Friday by the National Defense Industrial Association.

“I think we have the sense that we are stuck,” Rear Adm. William Leigher, director of information operations at Naval intelligence. He said “numerous tank sessions” about the issue had been held which did not always yield results.

“We need to figure out what are our priorities and I don’t think we have done that very well yet,” said Rosemary Wenchel, director of information operations and strategic studies for the undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

But Leigher and his fellow panelists at the NDIA conference believe senior policymakers have gradually absorbed the truth that cyber operations are crucial to the US military and intelligence and must be effectively managed in terms of war fighting, not as an administrative or commercial operation.

“I would sure like to get past the idea of who is going to do this and get on with the business of doing it,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Susan Helms, StratCom’s director of plans and policy, said to vigorous “hear hears” from her fellow panelists..

Once a decision is made about who will lead the federal government’s efforts, the panelists agreed that the “public face” must be a civilian entity, either the Department of Homeland Security or a senior White House position.

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Why create just a cyber combatant command? Why not step back and consider whether a more substantial reorganization is needed?

With all of the redundancies across the various services, why not consolidate them into a new service? Analogous to the National Security Act of 1947, which created the Air Force from the Army Air Force, a 21st century reorganization could create a CyberSpace Force. (The exact name is not significant, using CyberSpace Force as a generic moniker.) This new force, formed from components in all of the services, would concentrate the existing disparate and duplicative efforts into one organization. No service would lose capabilities, because we fight as a Joint team now. Personnel from the newly created force would join operations and command structures as dictated by mission requirements.

As it exists right now, each the services are devoting significant resources and efforts into solving the cyber challenges “in their own lane.”

Read more at:

Mr King, you live in a fantasy world.
With all the political infighting and ferocious inter service rivalries which have gone on for centuries, you can hardly expect this to be easy, or even achievable.
I think it is extremely important to do this, but a snowball has a better chance in hell.

Cyber has to be restructured, yes, but the very utility of cyber/internet’s needs to be revamped. Cyber crime is a $900 Billion dollar problem (second only to drugs). The only difference between a criminal, terrorist, spy, soldier is intent. The tactics, techniques, and capability are the same.

Yet the same systems you use to send funny jokes and pictures, are based on the same concept of 1s and 0’s used for national defence. And while you’re laughing at (and being) an ostrich with your head in the sand, the enemy is designing entire program/coding languages designed and intended to hack our networks. Coding languages based off their languages, slang and culture that 99.9% of america and programmers don’t understand. A cyber cocom, is only one of several necessary moves if America is going to retain ANY competative advantage/war force in the next 5–10 years. Realizing that, and institutionalizing those concepts are the real fight.

Cyber hasn’t existed for centuries. Computers have only existed in the last 50 years. And in those 50 years our economy, military, and itelligence can not function without, unless functioning at WWII capability.

Let’s see if I have this right — STRATCOM, as a Combatant Command, doesn’t have funding or personnel to do the mission. So the correct move is to… create another combatant command that will also not have funding or personnel to do the mission.

BRILLIANT! I love it.

And the worst part? They almost had an Air Force Cyber Command and they demoted it to a NAF! If the Air Force wants to take charge in this fight, beautiful, but do it!

A COCOM is not the answer, or at least not the entire answer. This has to be a cooperative mil/civ venture (for which there is little or no successful precedent). Every computer in the US is a targetfor exploitation and they don’t all reside on NIPRNET, SIPRNET or DODIIS. We need to come up with a combined structure and system that provide an effective shared information defense and a viable, responsive military offensive capability.

We also need to change our laws and corporate culture to value system and network security as a primary key to protecting the bottom line. The recently released Consensus Audit Guidelines are a great start, but so much more is needed.

I’ve made this argument for about two years now. We do in fact need a dedicated four star command. However, the UCP provides the best way ahead. Stand up the Cyber mission as a Sub-Unified Command of STRATCOM. It will be multi service and have its own component commands. The services will train and equip in order to present forces to the cyber commander who lives within the strategic context of STRATCOM with all the advantages of cross COCOM operational authority.

Who to do it? Take the DISA operatioinal mission, expand it. Strip away the ash and trash missions and keep it as a DoD agency. DISA as Cyber Com comes with a staff structure and one dimension of cyber built it. Keep NSA doing what it does best…it becomes a force provider. Create an industry council as part of the command group that engages and involves industry.

Let’s get out of the mindset of who controls cyber and address who is operating in it now. Promoting NSA to cybercom works too, then DISA still turns operational and becomes the core of the services piece.

And let’s not forget Title 10.

If I get any hits to this post, I’ll expand my thoughts more. I want to be a part of this process…NOW. jfs COL, US Army

DISA is a horrible choice for this. DISA is a bloated bureaucratic nightmare who cannot get any project of not completed without inflating the price tag beyond anything reasonable. They are shamed by any commercial counterpart, and a laughing stock everywhere else.

Our government’s money would be completely wasted dumping it into the cesspool that is DISA.

I agree that DISA is a horrible choice. You need to ask yourselves this. If the 40 some odd security vendors and companies out there cannot solve the problem (detect rates) and they employ the best in the business how in the heck do you think the DOD or intel agencies can? Check out this guys blog where he has some pretty innovative ideas. Especially about how to solve a lot of these issues.


I’m sorry John Schrader, but you can’t spell Disaster without DISA. They’re just as bloated and completely too bureaucratic to do this mission. They can’t even keep track of their own circuits and billing, let alone focus enough people on this mission. Sorry but DISA should keep trying to be the bill collector and let the other agencies fight the war.

Additionally sinlock, trying to say that the security vendors have the best in the business is kind of short sided. The Intel and DoD communities have the cream of the security crop, the problem is that they are hampered and hamstrung by horribly outdated and bureaucratic processes.


We need to create a non-profit organization to start developing solutions and legislation now. Submit to congress ASAP. Contact me if you are interested!

Dustin L. Fritz
CEO | The Computer Network Defense Group LLC

@cadams — Referencing your comment “With all the political infighting and ferocious inter service rivalries [.…], you can hardly expect this to be easy, or even achievable.”

Do you think it was easy in the late 1940s to rip the Air Force out of the Army? Do you think it was easy in 1986 to force Jointness down the services throats like a bad-tasting medicine?

Congresmen Ike Skelton spoke at our College (CGSC) a few years ago. He spoke at length about what it took to get the Goldwater-Nichols legislation enacted.

As reported by James Locher, one of the architects of the legislation:

one service Chief stated that this legislation would “make hash out of our Defense structure”; another warned, “The bill would have very adverse consequences for our national defense.” One service secretary argued that the reforms “would create chaos … to the point where I would have deep concerns for the future of the United States.“
REF: http://​tinyurl​.com/​G​o​l​d​w​a​t​e​r​-​N​i​c​h​o​l​s​-​1​0​y​e​ars

At least you only accused me of living in a “fantasy world.” If I recall correctly, Rep Skelton related that his very patriotism was questioned if he followed through with this legislation.

Change is never easy, necessary change is difficult and painful, but that does not lessen the need for change.

Bob King has it right. My work with a think tank of ODNI and the NSA has decided that this is exactly what must be done. Develop a separate Information Assurance group to have oversight of DoD (business) and IT processes. Information Assurance is Governance, Risk Management, Audit, Compliance and Counterintelligence.

Generals Lord and Elder at USAF and Cybercommand will be a best of Breed silo within the Air Force, just like C3ISR is for the Navy and such for the other services. These agency best of breed silos will then integrate with each other across the DoD, then with intel sharing ODNI, DHS and DoJustice, then with the rest of Federal Govt. and then with Civilian/Private sector (NIPP of DHS).

The JCS and STRATCOM would implement PNSR with JTFCOM doing the cross organizational, integrational planning. This would be for DoD, then also for CNCI, and then for the whole Federal Govt. and even to an extent for the private sector (NIPP and Emergency Preparedness).

An article on the likely appointment of a Defense Department Combat Commanding Officer (COCOM) and the likely organizational structure to manage Cyersecurity, Cyberwarfare, Cyberintelligence and CyberInformation Assurance is required.

Last Fall 2008 after a 45 day review the United States Air Force reorganized Cybercommand into an Air Force with, I believe a 3 Star Commanding. This reflects a “best of breed” organizational structure to obtain subject matter expertise in the material but leaves the question of integration management between the various service branches and then the DoD with everyone one else (ODNI, DHS and DoJustice– along with the other Federal Depts and the Private Sector), undecided.

G2/N2 etc has always been a separate and independent area, much like Cyber Information Assurance, Cybersecurity and Cyberintelligence specialty areas. They will have to integrate into a Cyberwarfare Point of the Spear Warfighter capabilities and should be a separate area outside pure Warfighter functional control.

Information Assurance Risk Management is to manage risks, but inherent outside and inside the operational Warfighter areas. You can not control these internal risks if you are inside the area you are overseeing the processes of. So Information Assurance (and Cyber Intelligence inputs and Cybersecurity actions) must be applied on top of NORMAL Warfighter Point of the Spear functional processes.

Hence why a COCOM must be appointed. But this is only the lower (operational) part of the Point of the Spear (Warfighter). There are all types of Cyber Information Assurance (Strategic Tactical) areas on top of the Operational parts. Plus Cyberintelligence and Cyber Security inputs into this system.

I know, I was working (with the people) (NSA and others) who came up with the President’s Project on National Security Reform (PNSR) since 2006. I presented on this architecture last Sept./Oct 2008 at http://​secureworldexpo​.com/​e​v​e​n​t​s​/​i​n​d​e​x​.​p​h​p​?​i​d​=​259

BTW James Locher III, was also involved with the Goldware-Nichols Act in 1986.

are you describing a construct similar to how SOF is organized across the force? Does that analogy apply?

Service specific SOF elemenst to meet the SOF needs of a service, with specialization and skill sets related to warfighting concepts of the services, but also with SOCOM to integrate multi-service acquisition, training and operations with a world-wide focus.

Is the relationship between Cyberwar and conventional war conceptually different than the dofference between Special Opns and conventional war?

we migth want to include Homeland Defense and Treasury into the mix too, because the threat to financial info systems is more immediate and damaging than the threat posed to military info systems, with the exception of the nuke arsenal


Command Structures put aside, Does it work in the field? Top down/Bottom up planning, who
cares, if a team leader cannot deploy it’s assets operationally in the face of a combat need?

Of course we need this to be decided upon soon, but, a sniper that shots ‚a .308 projectile that’s on target towards the enemy does not care if the weapon he is using is composed of parts from different manufacturers, just that it all works together to get the job done.

There are opportunities later on to upgrade the parts as needed during down time.

Before we go too far, please read the paper titled “Cyberspace as a Theater of Conflict:
Federal Law, National Strategy and
The Departments of Defense and Homeland Security”

It can be downloaded at


You should read the paper titled “Cyberspace as a theater of conflict”.

YOu can find it on the web site.


Here is the web site.

Click on my name in my previous comment to go to the web site.

Bob King,

This is being done.

The reorganization of the National Security Act of 1947 is being done under the PNSR– President’s Project for National Security Reform. This is a top down reorganization from the National Security Council downwards. General James L. Jones, Jr. is leading this effort.

He is an intelligent, deliberate, competent and thoughtful man who is well prepared, both in experience and in personality to manage such a reorganization.

I can’t say more.…


Pretty good.

But the issues is that you have a military culture and you have a civilian culture. The command and control culture process management culture of business, govt. and the military does not exploit the needed knowledge management collaborative culture to take us from a Reactive, Non Innovative, Non Adaptive, and Risk Adverse process management world to a Proactive, Innovative, Adaptive and Risk Taking Knowledge Management collaborative world.

This is not, in the end about how you manage technology, or even process, but about other more human factors, such as Culture, Personality, Behavior, and Knowledge (CPB-KPT).

Just a heads up…


Yes, just what we need, another government agency, another non profit group, another think tank, another vendor whoring their wares.

Yes, more of the same thing to solve the problem.….

ha ha.

Was this a joke?

There is a central risk management component and a SOCOM– on the periphery solution. Multiple capabilities (MOS or skill sets), each individual has leadership skill sets also.

Homeland Security is more the domestic threats. As such, especially in the area of Cybersecurity– there is no foreign and domestic domain. It is all one continuum, with the same threats, vulnerabilities and responses. The divide is something the lawyers dreamed up long ago!!!

The DHS NIPP– National Infrastructure Protection Plan are where you can look at the attack targets.

Cyberwarfare and conventional warfare have much in common, but the big difference is the length of the lifecycles involved. Cybersecurity has much, much faster lifecycles. The group that has much experience in split second decision making is with the USAF with their pilot training– decision time lifecycles and reaction time lifecycles. The Navy and the Army takes much longer to react. SOCOM is a good example of training to allow individuals to make decisions based on specialized skill sets and leadership qualities, independent of management (Officer) control, and oftentimes input.

Privacy and such periphery solutions are at the individual operator– customer/client interface.

Cyberwarfare will not depend on the General as to outcome. It will depend on the young 30 year old Warfare Officer who can match the attacker, move for move, in a Cyberwarfare world. That is where the CyberPoint of the Spear is.…

The whole systems is broken. We must rebuild it from the National Security Council to the Cyberwarfare Operator and Warfare Officer, to combat the Cyberwarfare threat.

Presently our Organizational Design, Human Capital Management and Knowledge Management abilities are not even close to what we need. The present Command and Control management system is way to centralized and process based. Process, as opposed to Knowledge based, is reactive, non adaptive, non innovative and risk adverse. Not what we need to fight Cyberwarfare scenarios.


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