CYBERCOM won't be fully operational by Friday deadline

Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, head of the U.S. Cyber Command, testifies last week on Capitol Hill before the House Armed Services Committee.



ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. Cyber Command will not be fully operational by Friday’s deadline, military officials revealed Wednesday.

“I don’t know that the 1 October deadline is holding strong and fast,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Rene White said.

Perhaps the biggest issue is defining what it means to be fully operational.

“That’s a good question,” White said.

For months, the Defense Department has scrambled to assemble the new combatant command, which combined several disjointed cybersecurity organizations across all four services and will require a staff of more than 1,000 personnel. Unifying what Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn has called a “loose confederation” of tens of thousands of employees could take years, many officials have said.

In May, officials declared Cyber Command open for business in an “initial operating capability” when commander Gen. Keith Alexander was confirmed and received his fourth star. But the requirement to be fully operational will likely not be hashed out by Oct. 1, Col. Rivers J. Johnson, CYBERCOM spokesman said Wednesday.

CYBERCOM is expected to release some parameters of its operational capability Thursday morning, Johnson said, while others will be worked out in an ongoing process.

CYBERCOM was supposed to become fully operational Friday, according to a June 2009 Defense Department memo released when Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the new command is operating.

Last week, Alexander, who also heads the National Security Agency, told Congress his command staff was in place but his top job was filling out the rest of the organization.

“This is going to take time for us to generate the force,” Alexander said. “If you were to ask me, what is the biggest challenge that we currently face? It’s generating the people that we need to do this mission.”

Meanwhile, the White House is still sorting through what roles each federal agency may play in defending against and fighting cyber attacks, including Cyber Command, Alexander said.

“They’re having that discussion to be sure what that means,” she said. “There are no new bodies, no new money, no new offices. They’re using things that already exist in different places.”