"Cyberspace and its associated technologies offer unprecedented opportunities to the United States and are vital to our nation's security and, by extension, to all aspects of military operations," the memo says. "Yet our increasing dependency on cyberspace, alongside a growing array of cyberthreats and vulnerabilities, adds a new element of risk to our national security."
To address that risk, the memo continues, the Department of Defense must have a command focused on cyberspace that can coordinate online military operations around the globe while also supporting civil authorities and international partners.
Gates' order wasn't unexpected. Unconfirmed reports two months ago indicated that the Department of Defense was planning to set up a cyberspace command.
Gates' memo states that he intends to recommend that the director of the National Security Agency -- a position currently held by Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander -- should be granted the command in addition to his current responsibilities.
The memo states that the preferred location for the headquarters for the new command is Fort Meade, Md., but it acknowledges that laws and regulations may dictate otherwise.
Alan Paller, director of research for the SANS Institute, calls the plan a good idea. He expects the new command will unify offense and defense in cyberspace, improve interoperability and information sharing among military services so they can respond "in Internet time rather than bureaucratic time," and improve career paths for cyberwarriors.
"The only downside is the possibility that they will so militarize the Information Assurance Division of NSA that they stop it from fully realizing the promise of S-CAP and the other public-private partnership initiatives that will be critical for turning the tide against the attackers," he said in an e-mail.
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