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NEWS | Oct. 4, 2022

Cyber 101 - U.S. Cyber Command History

By U.S. Cyber Command Public Affairs

Computer experts recognized in the 1960s that there was a pressing need to protect computers and the data they contain. That urgency increased with incidents of hacking, cyberespionage attempts, and equipment malfunctions. Even movies highlighted computer security. 1983’s WarGames, for instance, alarmed then-President Reagan. He tasked the Pentagon to determine whether the movie’s events could actually happen. Their verdict: yes, something eerily similar already had (in 1979).

Information Age technologies soon changed the world with global networks that anyone could use at home. By the 1990s, even DoD depended upon digital information systems to command and control its forces. DoD exercises like ELIGIBLE RECEIVER 97 demonstrated the cyber warfare risks associated with vulnerable systems. ER97 highlighted the need to protect and defend vital systems from foreign entities with the potential to disrupt operations.

DoD created Joint Task Force-Computer Network Defense (JTF-CND) in 1998, which soon evolved into Joint Task Force-Computer Network Operations (JTF-CNO). The Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged in 2004 that cyberspace was a domain of conflict for offensive and defensive operations. That same year, JTF-CNO split into Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations (JTF-GNO), responsible for defense; and Joint Functional Component Command-Network Warfare (JFCC-NW) for offensive cyberspace operations planning. Both worked in U.S. Strategic Command.

Seeking to better organize DoD’s cyber functions, Secretary of Defense Gates directed JTF-GNO and JFCC-NW to merge in 2010 to form USCYBERCOM. Established on 21 May 2010 with General Keith Alexander in command, USCYBERCOM is the nation’s second youngest unified combatant command (after US Space Command). Its current commander is General Paul Nakasone (USA). The Command is headquartered in Maryland, with the National Security Agency, at Fort George G. Meade.  USCYBERCOM’s Seal, approved by the Army’s Institute of Heraldry, represents the past and the future. It honors JFCC-NW and JTF-GNO, and recognizes the mission ahead.

All five services support USCYBERCOM with cyberspace components: U.S. Army Cyber Command, 16th Air Forces Cyber, Fleet Cyber Command, and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command, and US Coast Guard Cyber. With their support, USCYBERCOM meets and counters threats to DoD systems and the nation’s critical infrastructure. The Command supports government-wide efforts to defend US elections and works to identify, mitigate, and respond to threats such as terrorists' use of the internet, and adversaries’ attempts to influence and disrupt U.S. social cohesion and democratic processes.

USCYBERCOM operates globally in real time against determined and capable adversaries. Its mission is to direct, synchronize, and coordinate cyberspace planning and operations to defend and advance national interests in collaboration with domestic and international partners. USCYBERCOM defends DoD information systems, supports joint force commanders with cyberspace operations, and defends the nation from significant cyberattacks.

Four decades after President Reagan asked about a movie, USCYBERCOM enhances the efforts of military, law enforcement, homeland security, and intelligence leaders, and leads the multinational quest to improve cyber defense, and defend the nation in conflict and competition.