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Department of Defense Off-Camera Press Briefing on Elevation of Cyber Command

Press Operations

Colonel Rob Manning, Director, Defense Press Office; Kenneth P. Rapuano, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security
Aug. 18, 2017
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COLONEL ROB MANNING:  Good morning and thanks for coming. I am COL Rob Manning, director of press operations here at the Department of Defense. 

As you may be aware, this morning the President announced his decision to elevate U.S.
Cyber Command to a Unified Combatant Command. This decision reflects the agility of the Department of Defense to address the changing character of threats in today’s global security environment – specifically in the cyber domain. 

Today’s gaggle will focus only on the importance and impact of the President’s decision to elevate CYBER Command to a Unified Combatant Command; which will strengthen our cyberspace operations and create more opportunities to improve our Nation’s defense.  
It’s my honor to introduce the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and Global Security, Mr. Ken Rapuano. He has extensive experience in the areas of national security and homeland security. His bio is located on defense.gov. 

He will begin with brief opening comments and then take a few questions. We are limited on time this morning, so thanks in advance for your understanding.  With that, I’ll turn it over to Mr. Rapuano.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY KENNETH RAPUANO:  Great.  Thanks, Colonel Manning, and good morning to all of you.  

Today, the president announced his decision to elevate U.S. Cyber Command as a unified combatant command.  His decision is consistent with the Secretary of Defense's recommendation and the requirements of the National Defense Authorization Act of F.Y. 2017.

The decision is a welcome and necessary one that ensures that the nation is best positioned to address the increasing threats in cyberspace.  It reflects two factors:  first, the maturity of Cyber Command itself, and second, the Department of Defense's long-term commitment to cyberspace as a warfighting domain.

The elevation from its previous sub-unified command status also demonstrates the growing centrality of cyberspace to U.S. national security and signals our resolve to embrace the changing nature of warfare and maintain U.S. military superiority across all domains and phases of conflict.

Since its establishment in 2009, Cyber Command has grown significantly, consistent with the Department of Defense's cyber strategy.  This growth and maturation are reflective of major increases in investments in capabilities and infrastructure, and of the focused efforts to build out the cyber mission force, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of F.Y. 2018.

The decision means that Cyber Command will play an even more strategic role in synchronizing cyber forces and training, conducting and coordinating military cyberspace operations, and advocating for and prioritizing cyber investments within the department.  

It will also raise the stature of the commander of Cyber Command to a peer level with the other combatant commanders, allowing him to report directly to the Secretary of Defense.

This decision is a significant step in the department's continued efforts to build its cyber capabilities, enabling Cyber Command to provide real, meaningful capabilities as a command on par with the other geographic and functional combatant commands.

For now, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command will also remain director of the National Security Agency.  Any decision to split the dual-hat leadership structure in the future would first ensure the continued synergy and the advancement of each organization's mission, consistent with Section 1642 of the F.Y. '17 NDAA.

And now, I'll open it up to your questions.

COL. MANNING:  And we'll go with Reuters first.

Q:  Would you explain, maybe, in layman's terms, if there have been an increase in authorities for Cyber Command with the elevation?  And, secondly, why wasn't the split simultaneous with the elevation?  Why the delay?

COL. MANNING:  And please identify your name and -- state your name and media outlet, as well.

Q:  Idrees from Reuters.

SEC. RAPUANO:  And the second question was?

Q:  Why wasn't the split made as well?  Why just the elevation?  I mean, what's the reasoning for that?

SEC. RAPUANO:  So, to your first question on the authorities, what -- what the elevation from a sub-unified to a combatant -- unified combatant command does is it consolidates the authorities in terms of the direct synchronization of resources, training, as well as the operational planning and execution.  It's particularly relevant for unique, time-sensitive operations.

Q:  And then, the splitting?

SEC. RAPUANO:  The splitting -- the decision on the split, as I noted in my statement, is -- is essentially that we need to meet the requirements of Section 1642, which stipulates, essentially, that the mission capabilities of Cyber Command and the National Security Agency cannot be negatively impacted by the separation.

COL. MANNING:  Jamie McIntyre, Washington Examiner?  

Q:  Yes, just to follow up, because I'm -- so just explain in simple terms.  So who is the U.S. cyber commander now?  It's the same person who's the NSA --

SEC. RAPUANO:  Admiral Rogers is what we call the dual-hatted cyber commander, which is --

Q:  Is that a four-star position now?

SEC. RAPUANO:  -- yes.  It is a four star.

Q:  And so -- so, in the -- in the future, there'll be a separate four-star cyber commander --

SEC. RAPUANO:  That's correct.

Q:  -- but that hasn't happened yet?

SEC. RAPUANO:  That's correct.

Q:  I just wanted to be clear about it.  Sorry about that.  Okay~.

Q:  Tom Watkins, AFP.  Sorry if you've already explained this, but could you just -- for me, I'm -- I didn't quite understand.  What is the ongoing role of the NSA in this -- in this new command?  So is it -- is it subservient to NSA?  Is it still part of NSA?

SEC. RAPUANO:  So -- so the dual-hat command of Cyber Command and NSA will continue after the nomination and confirmation of the commander of the new unified Cyber Command.  It will continue until that point at which the secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff determine that the conditions of Section 1642 of the 2017 NDAA have been met.

And, essentially, those are to ensure that the mission capabilities of both organizations, after separation, will -- will not be negatively impacted.

Q:  And how long will it take for that separation to be achieved?

SEC. RAPUANO:  Well, the separation decision has not been made yet, and that's going to be based, again, when the -- when -- on when the secretary and the chairman come to the conclusion that -- that the conditions have been met.

Q:  So, there's no timeline for when -- (inaudible)?

SEC. RAPUANO:  There's not an explicit timeline for that, correct.

Q:  Thanks.  Patrick Tucker from Defense One.  Just to clarify, Mike Rogers will, now, continue to be head of both, then he'll go and be the head of NSA, and there's going to be a nomination for a new officer to be head of Cyber Command?  Or Mike Rogers, eventually, after the split, will stay the head of Cyber Command and there'll be a nomination for a person to head NSA?

SEC. RAPUANO:  So here's how it will work.  In -- the president has directed the Secretary of Defense to recommend a flag or general officer as the nominee for the president's decision, to be confirmed by the Senate.  Upon confirmation by the Senate, that will be the new unified combatant commander.

The decision on that individual is with the secretary right now and has not been made yet.  That individual will be the -- will be the dual-hatted commander, at the outset, of Cyber Command and NSA.  

At that point at which, in the future, the secretary and the chairman have come to the conclusion that the criteria have been met with regard to the separation of the dual hat, meaning individual commanders for each -- Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, only at that point, when they've come to the conclusion that certified that the conditions of Section 1642 have been met, will that happen -- or would that happen.

Q:  There's no timeline on the actual nomination?

SEC. RAPUANO:  There is not a timeline on separation, and there is not an explicit timeline on the nomination, except the president has already directed the Secretary of Defense to provide him a recommendation on the nominee.

(CROSSTALK)

COL. MANNING:  We're going to go to Lucas Tomlinson from Fox.  And then, Courtney, you're next.

Q:  How does this change prevent Russia from hacking U.S. elections?  (Laughter.)

SEC. RAPUANO:  So this change is not a response to any individual incident.  It really is based on a decision that was made at the establishment of the sub-unified command of Cyber Command, back in 2009, that this is a new sphere of warfare.  And we've seen a steady increase and escalation in cyber incidents around the world.

What the elevation does, again, is it brings the commander of Cyber Command to a peer level with the other unified combatant commands.  You have greater unity of effort and unity of command.  

So I think all of you are -- who are familiar with the combatant command structure appreciate the significance of moving from a sub-unified to a unified command.

COL. MANNING:  Courtney, NBC.

Q:  I think it might be fair to say that none of us understand the leadership, (inaudible).  So can -- can you just -- is -- is Mike Rogers -- he's staying on until someone new is -- is nominated and confirmed?  Is he out now?

SEC. RAPUANO:  No, Mike -- Admiral Rogers has the total confidence of Secretary Mattis.  He is the commander the sub-unified command.

Q:  So there's a new four-star being nominated to take over CYBERCOM, Mike Rogers stays on as the head of NSA, then?  No?

SEC. RAPUANO:  The decision -- the decision on who the secretary will recommend to the president as the commander of the new unified command has not been made yet.

Q:  So it could be Mike Rogers that's nominated to be the new unified command, and then somebody else would come in and take NSA?

SEC. RAPUANO:  Again, the separation has not occurred, in terms of the dual hat.  The dual hat will continue after confirmation -- nomination and confirmation of the new commander of Cyber Command.  

So it will remain a dual-hatted command.  The commander will be commander Cyber Command as well as an NSA until a decision is made with regard to separating the dual hat arrangement.

Q:  Okay.  And I still don't quite understand how, if they're saying, as a -- so now, is -- CYBERCOM, being a sub-unified command, means that it is now elevated above NSA in the pecking order.  

But NSA is a -- I don't -- I don't -- I don't understand the -- how everything is falling, now, because NSA is part of the I.C., right?  So CYBERCOM is a -- is a unified command, now -- effective immediately, right?  Is it, like, effective today?

(CROSSTALK)

SEC. RAPUANO:  So it goes -- it goes into effect upon nomination and confirmation of the commander of the unified command.

Q:  Upon confirmation.

SEC. RAPUANO:  Confirmation, that's correct -- upon confirmation.  And the dual hat will remain -- and -- and NSA, as a combat support agency, as you know, is -- is different from a combatant command.  And the reporting structure for NSA will remain the same, in terms of, in the intelligence community, reporting to the -- the DNI.

Q:  I guess the part that I don't -- I still don't understand is, how is it, if you're elevating CYBERCOM to a combatant command -- how is it that they are not split?  

Like, I -- I guess I don't -- I don't understand -- I -- the -- where everything is falling just -- and maybe everyone understands.  If you do, then I'll just shut up, but --

SEC. RAPUANO:  So, the command structure essentially stays the same, with the exception of you're elevating the level of Cyber Command in the sense of now it -- now it's a unified command.  It's at the peer level with all of the other functional combatant commands.  And the dual-hat command of NSA remains as well.

Q:  What happens to Admiral Rogers?  What happens to Admiral Rogers?

Q:  It sounds like you're saying he's canned.  The president has asked for a new nomination for someone to replace him in both roles.

SEC. RAPUANO:  The president has simply asked for the secretary's recommendation on a nomination.  The decision on who that individual will be has not been made.  It could be anyone --

Q:  But that means --

SEC. RAPUANO:  -- at the general or flag officer level.

Q:  And it could -- and it could be Admiral Rogers?

(CROSSTALK)

SEC. RAPUANO:  Hold on, hold on.  Let's ask questions in order, please.

Q:  So it could be Rogers, and he could be re-nominated and then have to go through confirmation, and then he would take over CYBERCOM?

SEC. RAPUANO:  That's correct.  If it -- if it were -- if it were the current commander of the sub-unified command, that individual would need to be confirmed as the commander of the unified command.

COL. MANNING:  Thank you, Courtney.

Q:  Thank you.

Q:  So, this -- this study period for possible separation is -- I understand that that's a 60-day review.  Is that accurate?

SEC. RAPUANO:  No, it's -- there -- there isn't a limitation on the duration of the assessment.  That will be an ongoing process in which the secretary will confer with the chairman as to if and when those conditions in 1642 have been met.

Q:  Okay, but the -- but the -- but you want this done by F.Y. 2018.  So essentially this could be going on for a year or more before the two are separated?

SEC. RAPUANO:  There's not a time limit.

Q:  There's not a time limit.  Okay.  What -- what's bringing this about?  Is it because the 133 teams are -- are ready to go, or --

SEC. RAPUANO:  The 133 teams will be -- will reach -- will be fully complete, as I note in my statement, by the end of F.Y. '18.  

What this does represent is just the natural next step.  Cyber Command, as a sub-unified command, has reached the level of maturation and capability where it -- the next natural step is to elevate it to a unified command, again, to enhance the unity of command and unity of effort in our efforts in the cyber sphere.

COL. MANNING:  So we've got time for a few more questions.  We're going to go with Mr. Bob Burns. 

Q:  Thank you, sir.  

Just a clarification to make sure I understood correctly one of the things you said on this topic of leadership of the new command.  Did you say that until the new commander of the unified command is confirmed by the Senate, the elevation will not happen, it will remain a sub-unified command?

SEC. RAPUANO:  The elevation will not be fully effected until the nomination and confirmation of the commander of the new unified command.

Q:  So nothing really changes today or tomorrow then?

SEC. RAPUANO:  Well, the process starts -- starts today with the president's decision, and it will be effected in terms of the unified command upon the nomination and confirmation of the unified -- the new unified commander.

Q:  Thank you.

COL. MANNING:  Nancy Yousef, Wall Street Journal. 

Q:  Thank you.  You said the process starts today.  Does that mean the process under review?  I think -- what I'm having a hard time understanding is you said that this was a natural next step.  And my question is, what would have been the cost of not making this change until all the things that were required in this Section 1642 had been sorted out?  Why do you need to make this step rather than wait until all the issues related to this are sorted out?  What is the benefit?

SEC. RAPUANO:  Well, the separation and elevation are two very distinctly different issues.  The elevation is the stature of the command and the ability to operate in a more unified effort with -- with focus.

The separation question -- the dual-hat status was -- was always designed to be a temporary decision, in the sense that, at the outset, when the sub-unified command was established, there were the unique levels of expertise and experience within NSA for -- which it was critical for the sub-unified command of Cyber Command to leverage.

So that has been a very symbiotic relationship, but there will come a point where they should, and will, be separated.  The issue of focus is just to ensure that that decision is not made until it is clear and there is confidence that those two -- neither of those two commands will have negative mission impact by virtue of the -- of the separation.

Q:  I guess what I'm asking is, doesn't it cloud it more to actually have this elevation when that question hasn't been answered about whether it has a negative impact?  I mean, you already have an impact by elevating.  So that's what I'm having a hard time understanding.

(CROSSTALK)

SEC. RAPUANO:  Okay.  Elevation -- the elevation does not change the structure and process of -- of the dual-hat status.

Q:  (Inaudible) give Cyber Command more say with, for example, (CENTCOM ?) or --

(CROSSTALK)

SEC. RAPUANO:  Correct.  Correct.  It elevates the stature of Cyber Command.  It doesn't negate, or any -- in any other way undermine, the NSA component of that dual command status.

COL. MANNING:  Okay.  Appreciate your interest in this announcement.  Louis Martinez, ABC, you have the final question.

Q:  Yes, sir.  

There had been some discussion about making the NSA director a civilian position.  How will that be affected by this, and is that -- (off mic)?

SEC. RAPUANO:  That's a decision that has -- has not been made.  So it may be under consideration, but -- but that's not -- that's not a decision, at least from my awareness -- 

Q:  Currently, no?

(CROSSTALK)

SEC. RAPUANO  -- it's not part of this.  That's correct.

COL. MANNING:  Mr. Rapuano, thanks again for your time and your expertise.  

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for coming today.  I've got one announcement for you as we farewell Mr. Rapuano.

SEC. RAPUANO:  Thank you.  My pleasure.

COL. MANNING:  Absolutely.  

If you have any additional questions, Ms. Heather Babb is the desk officer, and she can take your queries.  


(CROSSTALK) 

COL. MANNING:  Thank you, sir.  Appreciate it.  

Okay, again, I appreciate your patience, today, with our special topic gaggle.

And, on this Friday -- or Friday afternoon, now, I've got an update I'd like to share with you on the secretary's upcoming travel to the Middle East and Europe.  

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will depart on Saturday, August 19th, -- tomorrow, to reaffirm the enduring U.S. commitment to strategic partnerships in the Middle East and Europe.

Secretary Mattis will begin his engagements in Jordan on Monday, August 21st, meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah II and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The secretary will express U.S. appreciation for Jordanian efforts to combat ISIS and reaffirm U.S. commitment to stand shoulder to shoulder with Jordan in facing regional and global challenges.  This is the secretary's first trip to Jordan during his tenure.  

On Wednesday, August 23, Secretary Mattis visits Turkey to meet with the minister of national defense, the minister of foreign affairs and President Erdogan.

Secretary Mattis will emphasize the steadfast commitment of the United States to Turkey as a NATO ally and strategic partner, seek to collaborate on efforts to advance regional stability and look for ways to help Turkey address its legitimate security concerns, including the fight against the PKK.

The secretary concludes his trip on Thursday, August 24th, with his first visit as secretary of defense to Kiev, Ukraine.  There, he will meet with the minister of defense and President Poroshenko.

During these engagements, the secretary will reassure our Ukrainian partners that the U.S. remains firmly committed to the goal of restoring Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as strengthening the strategic defense partnerships between our two countries.

Again, and you'll see a release on this trip.  If it hasn't gone out already, it will go out shortly.  

Again, I appreciate you coming today.  I hope you have a great and safe weekend