Asia Defense

The US Military Wants to Train More Cyber Warriors

The U.S. military continues to develop its new Cyber Command.

The US Military Wants to Train More Cyber Warriors

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel listens to a brief on a cyber warfare program.

Credit: Official DoD photo by Sgt. Aaron Hostutler USMC (Released).

The fiscal year 2016 budget request calls for $27 million to be allotted to the burgeoning U.S. Cyber Command in order to ramp up cyber capabilities of the U.S. military. In detail, the U.S. Air Force is asking for $10 million, the U.S. Navy for $4 million, and the U.S. Army for $13 million in public funds to train cyber warriors.

Cyber command — a sub-unified command of U.S. Strategic Command —  is supposed to be fully operational by the end of 2016 with 6,000 active-duty cyber warriors in place (about 2,400 had been hired by December 2014), yet this date  appears now to have been pushed back to 2017. The number of new cyber warriors to be brought on board in the immediate future is relatively small. “The military services each want to bring on board an additional 20 to 60 computer security whizzes starting next fall,” states Aliya Sternstein in a piece on the Pentagon’s expanding cyber force.

The core component of the new cyber command are so called Cyber Mission Forces teams — “tactical units” — according to Lt. Gen. James McLaughlin, deputy commander of cyber command. The teams are subdivided into different specializations as Defense One notes:

  • “National Mission Teams” that deflect foreign hackers aiming for U.S. critical infrastructure;
  • Cyber Protection Teams that defend the dot-mil domain, where military secrets are kept;
  • Combat Mission teams that help geographically-located Combatant Command troops attack overseas adversaries.

Overall, the U.S. military wants to set up 133 such teams over the next two years. Details over the precise numerical division of the three different sub teams are murky, yet Lt. Gen. McLaughlin notes that about half would be used for defensive purposes, while at least part of the other half would be used for offensive cyber operations. The Air Force will train 39 teams and specifically asked for “an increase of 200 military personnel in cyber operations and cyber warfare positions to counter growing worldwide cyber threats.”

Defense One quotes Air Force Maj. Gen. James Martin as saying, “Support of this budget request is important, so that we can eliminate some stress on the force, that we can make sure we’re adding back money for the force structure that we have, as well as some billets that support and strengthen the nuclear enterprise, as well as new missions such as the cyber teams.”

These cyber teams, according to the “U.S. Air Force Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Overview,” should guarantee cyberspace superiority, “which hinges on the idea of preventing prohibitive interference to joint forces from opposing forces, which would prevent joint forces from creating desired effects.” However, the term cyber superiority (another word for network domination) is controversial and has provoked a lot of debate internationally. Overall, the Obama White House’s fiscal 2016 budget proposal asked for $ 14 billion in funding for cybersecurity.