U.S. Cyber Command, the military’s top cyber warfare unit, reached an important milestone last week when the organization’s Cyber Mission Force accomplished initial operating procedure.
The designation means that the entirety of this first group can begin executing missions globally — as they have met a basic criteria for personnel, training, resources and equipment. Originally, defense officials expected the CMF to reach the milestone by Sept. 30.
“These milestones are important and show the maturing nature of U.S. Cyber Command. While this is merely one more in a series of stepping stones, it speaks to a process put in place three years ago that has yielded a new and capable fighting force. CyberCom in not done yet, but well on their way. Our adversaries should pay attention,” Joseph Kinder, a 30-year Navy veteran and former U.S. Fleet Cyber Command director, told CyberScoop.
The CMF – comprised of 33 teams and 5,000 “cyber warriors” — is tasked with defending the Defense Department’s data and its digital networks. Additionally, Cyber Command works to defend the U.S. from cyberattacks of “significant consequence,” like those that target the U.S.’ critical infrastructure.
The unit’s growth in terms of workforce and capabilities, both defensive and offensive, follow inline with the DoD’s broader cyber strategy, which was publicly shared last April. As part of the 2017 information technology budget, the Department requested $6.8 billion for cyber operations.
Members of the CMF have “played a vital role in supporting missions to safeguard the nation against cyberattacks” dating back to the group’s inception in 2013, NSA and Cyber Command Chief Adm. Michael Rogers said in a statement.
Notably, half of the CMF’s teams have already reached full operational capacity. In total, the force is expected to grow to 6,187 soldiers, with all teams fully operational by Sept. 30, 2018.
“One of the reasons [the Defense Department] has done exceptionally well to rapidly train and build this force is that each branch of the military services has come to the conclusion that cyber is a mission set that requires dedicated expertise over time,” Rogers said in a statement. “That wasn’t always the case and I have to compliment the services, the services’ Cyber Component leadership, and the entire team for all of the extremely hard work to achieve this goal.”