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US Cyber Force Vs. Integration: Two Paths To Reform

The US military has struggled to implement solutions, often resorting to superficial fixes for personnel shortages.

by Ashish Khaitan March 26, 2024 in Firewall Daily, Main Story Reading Time: 3 mins read 0

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The Pentagon and Congress are at a crucial point in tackling deficiencies in the US military's cyber operations. There's a clear need for a dedicated , especially considering the challenges organizations are up against. A key problem is the mismatch in leadership, with officers lacking cyber expertise often leading units.

This mismatch is worsened by broken recruitment systems across military branches, resulting in a shortage of qualified cyber talent. Highlighting the inadequacies within the US cyber front, stated, “This research paints an alarming picture. The inefficient division of labor between the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps prevents the generation of a cyber force ready to carry out its mission.”

The Need for a Dedicated US Cyber Force

Efforts to rectify these issues have been met with autonomous concern and directives from Congress. However, the military has struggled to implement solutions, often resorting to superficial fixes for personnel shortages.

Source: FDD

A recent study, drawing on interviews with military officers, has shed light on systemic flaws in recruitment, training, and promotion practices within the .

One proposed solution gaining traction is the establishment of a dedicated US Cyber Force, similar to the Air Force and Space Force. This Cyber Force would streamline personnel management and prioritize cyber expertise, ensuring uniform standards for recruitment, training, and promotion.

Unlike alternative proposals, such as integrating cyber functions into existing commands, an independent Cyber Force offers a targeted approach to addressing the critical shortage of qualified cyber personnel. “Without the responsibility for procuring planes, tanks, or ships, a Cyber Force could also prioritize the rapid acquisition of new cyber warfare systems.”, stated the report by The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“Since the establishment of in 2010 and its subsequent elevation to a unified combatant command in 2018, the military has had a designated organization for force employment in and through cyberspace. But the United States still has no single entity responsible for cyber force generation”, added the FDD.

Current State of Cybersecurity in the US Military 

Currently, the US military's Cyberspace Operations Forces encompass various elements responsible for reconnaissance, operational preparation, and network-enabled operations. Despite the establishment of CYBERCOM, there remains a notable gap in force generation for cyberspace operations. The lack of a dedicated cyber training academy further compounds the issue, highlighting the need for structural reforms within the military's cyber domain.

The proposed US Cyber Force would consolidate cyber personnel and resources under CYBERCOM's authority, separate from the National Security Agency (NSA). It would focus on organizing, training, and equipping forces for cyberspace operations while leaving defensive cyber operations and IT infrastructure management to the services.

Financially, the Cyber Force would have a budget estimated at $16.5 billion, drawn from existing allocations and efficiencies gained through consolidation.

Historical case studies highlight the necessity of congressional intervention to create an independent uniformed service for cyberspace operations, akin to the establishment of the Air Force and Space Force. The testimonials provided by military personnel emphasize the urgent need for a separate cyber service to address critical shortcomings within the military's approach to cyberspace operations.

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