Since its inception in 2014, U.S. Cyber Command’s Cyber National Mission Force has been rapidly evolving to meet the needs of the Nation, and has participated in, or responded to almost every national crisis the U.S. has face.
CNMF, under the command of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. George Franz III, officially activated on Jan. 17, 2014. Franz called it “a significant milestone in the establishment of cyberspace capability.” U.S. Army General Keith B. Alexander, Commander of U.S. Cyber Command, declared CNMF the “first joint tactical command with a dedicated mission focused on cyberspace operations.”
Since its inception as sub-unified command in 2010, USCYBERCOM had a need for a supporting agile force ready to engage adversaries in the tactical cyber fight. The requirement led to a new operating concept and force model, which USCYBERCOM leaders briefed in the Department of Defense in 2012. That December, USCYBERCOM received approval to build CNMF as a part of the larger Cyber Mission Force. Initially, CNMF comprised of 21 teams—13 cyber national mission teams and eight direct support teams. USCYBERCOM, supported by National Security Agency, then spent the next several years building the cyber mission teams.
Future USCYBERCOM Commander U.S. Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, then a brigadier general, succeeded Franz as CNMF’s commander in June 2014. Nakasone led his teams through mission exercises, such as CYBER KNIGHT, which combined attack and defense operations and used innovative techniques and procedures for network protection.
CNMF continued its maturation on May 17, 2018, under the command of U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Timothy J. White. CNMF had grown into a force of 29 teams organized into five task forces that met the rigorous criteria for full operational capability. Nakasone, now the commander of USCYBERCOM, noted that the CNMF had been building since 2013, and had shifted gears “from force generation to sustainable readiness.” At this time, U.S. Cyber Command was elevated from sub-unified command under U.S. Strategic Command to a full combatant command.
As CNMF’s missions and responsibilities expanded, security of the U.S. midterm elections in 2018 became a top priority for both CNMF and NSA. This resulted in the creation of the Russia Small Group. Then-U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Timothy D. Haugh took command of CNMF, and served as co-lead of the RSG along with NSA senior executive Anne Neuberger, in a successful launch to disrupt foreign interference in U.S. elections.
When then-U.S. Army Brig. Gen. William J. Hartman took command in Aug. 2019, CNMF was postured to address an increasingly complex cyber domain. In 2020, the Dept. of Defense announced election security as an enduring mission to defend against foreign interference and foreign influence, and CNMF and NSA co-led what is now called the Election Security Group through the following election cycles.
Since becoming fully operational in 2018, CNMF teams have defended U.S. elections with the Election Security Group, conducted dozens of defensive Hunt Forward missions in many countries around the world, and directly engaged malicious cyber actors responsible for attacks on DoD and U.S. critical infrastructure, and shared their insights with interagency, industry, and international partners to bolster homeland defense.
In recognition of the vital role CNMF plays in U.S. national security, it was officially elevated to the status of a subordinate unified command under USCYBERCOM in Dec. 2022.