Elevating U.S. Cyber Command to a full combatant command will be a first step for setting Department of Defense cyber warfare objectives, but establishing unified command leadership will be necessary for enacting effective operational strategies.

Panelists at a Tuesday cyber conference discussed future cyber tactics finding success with a joint campaign approach receiving unified directives  rather than segmenting components across the services or creating a separate Cyber Corps.

Director of AFCYBER Forward Col. Todd Stratton
Director of AFCYBER Forward Col. Todd Stratton

“We look at this as providing full-spectrum, all-domain integrated effects. What that means is cyber doesn’t just stand alone. It’s part of a holistic joint campaign plan, and it has to be integrated in with the timing and tempo of a supporting command,” said Col. Todd Stratton, director of Air Force Cyber Command (AFCYBER) Forward, at the Fifth Domain Cyber Conference.

Stratton believes a fully elevated Cyber Command, one with leadership separated from its current dual-hat role with the National Security Agency, will help streamline future cyber objectives as DoD looks to explore further opportunities in the domain.

The Pentagon initiated the process of elevating Cyber Command to a unified combatant command in August, but a final decision has yet to be made on the dual leadership role with the NSA,  a position currently held by Adm. Mike Rogers.

“From AFCYBER’s perspective, we see this is as a critical, tested warfighting domain and it needs a unified combatant commander in charge,” said Stratton.

In the meantime, Cyber Command is working to form improved relationships with both policymakers and cyber leaders across the services to push cyber defense policy objectives, according to Brig. Gen. Timothy Haugh, the command’s Director of Intelligence.

Haugh views Cyber Command’s immediate objectives as setting joint cyber training standards, synchronizing cyber activities with its combatant commands and formulating global tactics.

Cyber Command must also work on unifying its information sharing and intelligence priorities across the DoD.

Unified leadership will help the process of sharing instances of anomalous activity on networks, and providing information on known vulnerabilities, according to Haugh.

“Those are areas now that will become an essential point of the discussion, in terms of organization,” said Haugh.

Stratton is focused on the elevation of Cyber Command, rather than potential discussion on the creation of a Cyber Corps to handle DoD’s cyber domain operations.

“Right now, we feel at AFCYBER that if we were to try separate out all the cyber capability in cyberspace, one, it would be incredibly difficult because cyber is in everything … and to take that apart from individual services would be extraordinarily difficult. Secondly, we don’t want to distance ourselves from that integrated joint approach to operations,” said Stratton.