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U.S. Fleet Cyber Command was officially established and 10th Fleet re-commissioned on Friday at Fort Meade, Md. Vice Adm. Bernard J. McCullough III will be at the helm.
The command is the Navy's arm of U.S. Cyber Command, created by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on June 23, 2009. The unified command, a part of U.S. Strategic Command, coordinates computer-network defense and directs military cyber-attack operation. It was established largely in response to repeated attacks on defense networks, including a breach of the F-35 fighter jet program.
Each respective military branch has engaged in the cyber arena for years. The Navy, for example, has excelled in signals analysis and provides the bulk of organic electronic warfare capability and airborne expeditionary electronic attack capacity.
Yet numerous service leaders and industry experts have long said the Army, Navy and Air Force are unable to independently defend against far-reaching cyber attacks. McCullough acknowledged the strength in and necessity of teamwork, saying "the challenge is so large, to go it alone is not possible." He said the Fleet Cyber Command's ability to work with the sister services, academia, agencies, industry, allies and partners would be key to its success.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead said Fleet Cyber Command will help provide the integration and innovation necessary for warfighting superiority, and help raise this emerging battlefield to the forefront of the Navy's 21st century arsenal.
As such, it was fitting to place the command under a re-commissioned 10th Fleet. That fleet, which numbered about 50, was created during World War II and used technology to handle a new and emerging threat: Submarine warfare in the Atlantic Ocean.
"[Tenth Fleet] had a global responsibility to protect American forces and American trade. It was a command whose success depended less on manned and massed fire power than on intelligence and information," Roughead said. "Today, we re-commission this fleet to confront a new challenge to our nation's security in cyberspace. It is a mission for which even more so than before, victory will be predicated on intelligence and information rather than fire power."
McCullough compared the Navy's response to German U-boats and today's cyber threats at length in his opening comments as 10th Fleet Commander. He likened cyberspace to a little-explored ocean, on which "we are developing experience just as generations before have learned and mastered their advances in warfare."
"The consequence of losing [that] campaign and relinquishing control of the Atlantic was real, and failure would have altered the outcome in the European theater of that war," he said. "We were all too aware that our formidable oceanic barriers would crumble if a skilled and determined onslaught was not matched by a response comparable in skill and determination."
Noting that the Navy now operates in the new global commons of cyberspace, McCullough said that "the potential exists for devastating consequences if the challenge is not addressed."
McCullough's initial direction for the command was multifaceted. It is to exercise command and control over networks with "dynamic, real time defense and information assurance enabled by intelligence collection," he said. It must also provide nonkinetic effects — real or yet unimagined — in support of regional combatant commanders.
"Cyberspace is a unique domain with a totally different set of challenges," he said. "To operate successfully in this newly defined domain the Navy must first think differently about cyberspace operations. This world travels at the speed of light and requires real time command and control. We must ensure seamless alignment and integration with Fleet operations, and we must always remember that our real power at 10th Fleet lies not in systems, but in our people."
Fleet Cyber Command and 10th Fleet are headquartered at Fort Meade, which enables the new command to take advantage of existing Naval Network Warfare Command infrastructure, communications support and personnel already in place, officials said.