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All ideas expressed here are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the United States Department of Defense, the Navy, or the U. Image: U. Army Cyber Command.

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Rather, it is intended to achieve a longstanding military desire of having close and effective — and therefore accurate and rapid — integration of intelligence and operations. The two organizations will still have to cooperate on cyber operations. Cybered conflict today involves countering adversaries that are operating at a scale and with a reach that is already overwhelming to the combined size of the dual-hatted unit, other federal civilian cyber entities, and the huge commercial cyber security community of the United States.

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Cyber Command conducts defensive as well as offensive cyber operations. This split would lose 10 years of lessons in operational offense-defense integration learned through the dual hat. To be clear, it is much easier to decouple two organizations than to integrate them — to destroy synergy than to create it.

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Unexpected information discoveries would be less readily shared if the two organizations split. There are always voices in favor of decoupling, irrespective of the overarching benefits.

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There is no guarantee of survival for democratic states in the coming exceptionally digitized and increasingly authoritarian world unless this minority community of consolidated democracies finds ways to closely cooperate in a cyber operational resilience alliance for collective defense. That tailoring requires careful, highly responsive timing and constantly refreshed intelligence.

In the meantime, such a choice stunts the forward learning, experimentation, and defense innovations such as the hunt forward teams supporting allies against state sponsored hackers. The proposal risks reigniting turf battles between the intelligence and operations arms of the secretary of defense and mistakes the intertwined relationship between defense and offense in cybered conflict. Talking the Talk: Language Capabilities for U. Army Special Forces.


Better to find a whole-of-society cyber resilience plan than to rip apart what appears to be working. Third, separating intelligence from operations as it was before the dual-hat arrangement cedes a critical synergy advantage to adversaries. Cyber Command too soon, if at all. There is already a national shortage of people with advanced computer skills. Larger inter-organizational battles could begin in an accumulated multitude of smaller struggles across organizational barriers.

Any serious attention or time spent in the United States on whether to split Cyber Command from the NSA right now or any time soon constitutes a distraction from much bigger and more urgent, systemic national challenges.

Even without the dual-hat structure, laws and military lawyers will exist. Suboptimal speed in trade-off decision-making is certainly more likely if there are two peer organizational leaders viewing themselves as having two different missions. Exquisitely detailed intelligence therefore becomes exceptionally important to knowing whether the cyber tools have any discernible offense and defense effects, let alone those desired.

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The massive volume of systemic assaults against the United States and allies requires a matching scale of coordinated units with integrated knowledge and capability for action. The traditional distinctions between operations and intelligence concerns are likely to return, with less frequent shared daily practices marking the current operational teams.

Having the two organizations share the same person as commander in the dual hat is far from what later critics might explain as a convenient, short-term nurturing arrangement for the infant Cyber Command. They will ensure that each operational commander will be obliged to consider possibilities in surprises, unanticipated consequences, or harmful cascading events.

If the organizations are separated, the consequences are likely to be less agile, intuited, and innovative cyber operations in both organizations. There is no guarantee that more or less offensive operations will happen — or more advantages accrue — if an independent but still forming organization such as Cyber Command finds itself always negotiating with a sovereign NSA for its critical intelligence and cyber security support.

Unity of command has long been taken for granted as key to a faster decision in a crisis, even given the size of the organization.

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Cyber defense requires a more in-depth understanding of corresponding offensive tools and operations than is required in conventional military forces. Splitting the dual-hat arrangement further weakens an already too small and fragmented U. Second, the split is likely to hand the speed advantage to adversaries.

It will also distract policymakers, scholars, analysts, and practitioners from more critically needed research and thinking. Having a single leader is even more important in cybered conflict, where offense and defense are inextricably linkedand the guidance of a shared boss helps ensure more speedy trade-off decisions. Two separate hierarchies would have to agree on defense and offense trade-offs in priority of operations and budgets.

Furthermore, in cybered conflict, defense is not effective without cyber security, and offense is not successful without intelligence. As the global order is shifting, there is little enough time to create and implement a collective working cyber operational defense plan among democratic allies and their interdependent private sectors.

Demchak is the Grace M. Naval War College. Scale is needed to defeat scale when the battlefield is the interconnected cyberspace substrate underlying all modern national socio-technical-economic systems. Fifth, there is no guarantee of any new advantage to be gained to compensate for what is lost.

Similarly, in the executive director of U. The turf-reinforced bureaucratic divisions would return and the commonality of understanding developed over the past 10 years would wither. Conversely, it is possible that an uncoupled Cyber Command could push for operations to be time risk-acceptant.

Needed urgently is a long-term systemic and well-resourced plan that accommodates from each organization inside the government and outside in the technology private sector could bring to the table, what the entire country needs in terms of cyber defense and underlying digital transformation, and how to establish and maintain national resilience with allies as peers and the time sector inside a common democratic digital defense tent.

To the cybered fight, NSA brings cyber security as well as national intelligence. Nsa current focus needs to be on this larger societal defense and well-being challenge, not on separating a successful working arrangement in national cyber defense.

Five reasons not to split cyber command from the nsa any time soon – if ever

First, the scale of adversary cyber threats is unprecedented, prompting cyber commands not only in the United States but elsewhere to expand budgets and personnel. With a dual-hat arrangement, the single individual at the head of Cyber Command and the NSA can more effectively and quickly tailor demand als to both planners and developers about the intelligence needs of operations against specific targets.

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Disputes are likely to be less easily resolved at lower levels due to the more thoroughly reinforced separated bureaucratic processes. The United States and its allies are headed into the most challenging era since World War II, facing the largestmost strategically coherent, technologically aggressiveand economically intrusive adversary this community has ever faced. Weapons in cyber operations need to be tailored to cybered targets in ways more traditional weapons do not. This split and its debate can wait.

Some argue that the split is a question of when, not if. So would the spontaneous support in ideas, sacrifice, additional time, and innovative action.

The operational overlaps in mission needs between NSA and Cyber Command are profound, and would be equally disrupted by splitting the two. These folks are now shared relatively readily between the ed organizations. Nonetheless, a divorce of this kind is the wrong long-term solution for both agencies and for the nation. In all conflict, having knowledge in advance is key to success, resilience, and innovation around future threats, and it is often found by accidental exchanges among colleagues or peers routinely working with each other.

The combination was, and continues to be, meant to solve an age-old problem of integration of intelligence with operations as rapidly and organically as possible.

Chris C. Become a Member. The evolution of a more integrated understanding of cyber operational needs has been a long, hard-fought success so far, and it is not guaranteed to survive a separation.

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Cybered conflict is a nonstop, urgent struggle, and tactically aggressive cyber operations could prove irresistible if there are fewer old hands from the intel side to urge a wider, longer-term view. The organizational evolutionary thread could go either way. The latest attack, the so-called SolarWinds campaignis only one of a legion of campaigns attacking the nation as well as its allies. These capabilities allow Cyber Command in particular to operate outside of formal military networks to disrupt malicious attacks at their sourcesand are deeply dependent on the closely combined skills of both organizations.

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This idea is a contentious and recurring sparring point, emerging in greater public display with the second Obama term. Executing cyber offense requires a similar knowledge of cyber defense.

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In addition to the big Russian hack, some other surprising news occurred in the cybersecurity world this holiday season.


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