Protecting U.S. Interests in the Cyber Realm

It is difficult to keep track of the rate at which our environment is becoming interconnected. For example, modern car tires can now relay air-pressure to dashboard displays or smartphones via bluetooth technology. Innovation at such a rapid rate can drastically increase efficiency, but likewise it can also expose vulnerabilities. This occurs at all ends of the technology spectrum; from basic smartphone applications, to protection of personal data, to national infrastructure platforms. While deviants may not be interested in your tire pressure, similar technologies used in American infrastructure provide substantial targets for cyber-exploitation. Consequently, the U.S. government is constantly adapting to protect its own digital assets and those of its citizens. Beyond the Build: Delivering Outcomes through Cyberspace is Commander Michael Rogers’ “vision and guidance for U.S. Cyber Command.” In his guidance, Admiral Rogers addresses how the U.S. must leverage its vast wealth of national cyber capabilities to “keep pace with change in the cyber domain.”

The Commander’s guidance is divided into the following three categories: Mission, Imperatives, and Enablers. The Imperatives support the key facets of USCYBERCOM’s Mission, while the Enablers facilitate optimal operability. While the mission of USCYBERCOM has remained relatively constant, ADM Rogers focuses on the crucial Imperatives and Enablers that are required for mission accomplishment. The three categories and their key elements are listed below.

Mission: USCYBERCOM partners with the Intelligence Community and other DOD entities to operate in the following three core capacities:

  1. Ensure Department of Defense mission assurance,” (assist DOD operations through the use of cyber-capabilities)
  2. Deter or defeat strategic threats to US interests and infrastructure
  3. Achieve Joint Force Commander objectives

Imperatives: Mission success relies on USCYBERCOM’s ability to carry out the following tasks:

  1. Defend the Nation’s Vital Interests in Cyberspace” (dissuade and attribute “acts of disruption and destruction and campaigns of cyber espionage,” thereby “strengthening the resolve of DOD systems”)
  2. Operationalize the Cyber Mission Set” (this requires “turning strategy and plans into operational outcomes”)
  3. Integrate Cyberspace Operations in Support of Joint Force Objectives” (expanding cyber-capabilities throughout the general military as opposed to just a specific support-entities.
  4. Accelerate Full-Spectrum Capacity Capability Development

Enablers: These enablers focus on synergy of cyber-operations throughout the military. Aspects such as accessibility to cyberspace and the coordination of responsibility are essential to accomplishing the aforementioned imperatives.

  1. Demonstrated Value and Credibility,” (upon delegating the authority to utilize cyber-capabilities, the DOD must continue to monitor that operations are consistent with DOD objectives and standards. It is also necessary to “clarify roles and responsibilities between USCYBERCOM, other US government, and private sector entities”)
  2. Defined Command and Control” (interagency chain of command must remain clear and constant, especially in times of conflict)
  3. The Other C2: Cooperation and Collaboration” (industry and academic counterparts are important resources, which is why the “relationship with the NSA is key”)
  4. Professionalized Force” (USCYBERCOM’s needs to be innovated in “recruitment, excellence in training and education, and career-path flexibility,” to ensure the highest quality of workforce)
  5. Acquisition Agility” (products and services must remain accessible for USCYBERCOM to continue advancing its cyber-capabilities)

ADM Rogers concluded by stating that traditional warfighting skills are still important, but that the modern security landscape mandates that warfighting entities also maintain dominance in the cyber realm.

For more resources on Cyber Policy and Cyber Infrastructure Protection, including the most recent version of the DoD Cyber Strategy, visit the Homeland Security Digital Library (Some resources may require HSDL login).


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