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Trump elevates Cyber Command, setting the stage for NSA separation

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Long-awaited move underscores the growing significance of cyber warfare

FBI Director James Comey Delivers Keynote Address On Cyber Security At Georgetown University Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Trump administration this week elevated the US Cyber Command to a Unified Combatant Command, in a long-awaited move that underscores the growing importance of cyber warfare.

The decision, announced Friday, puts the Cyber Command on par with nine other combat commands, and may lead to its separation from the National Security Agency (NSA). In a statement, President Trump said that Secretary of Defense James Mattis will examine the possibility of separating the Cyber Command and the NSA, and that he will announce recommendations “at a later date.”

“This new Unified Combatant Command will strengthen our cyberspace operations and create more opportunities to improve our Nation’s defense,” Trump said in the statement. “The elevation of United States Cyber Command demonstrates our increased resolve against cyberspace threats and will help reassure our allies and partners and deter our adversaries.”

Trump also said that the move will “streamline command and control of time-sensitive cyberspace operations,” and that it will “ensure that critical cyberspace operations are adequately funded.”

Proposals for creating an independent Cyber Command were first made under the Obama administration, with supporters arguing that the unit’s mandate was sometimes at odds with the NSA’s intelligence gathering operations — particularly with regard to the fight against ISIS.

Cyber Command was created as a sub-unit of the US Strategic Command, with a mandate to conduct cyber warfare and defend government networks. Navy Admiral Michael Rogers currently leads both Cyber Command and the NSA.