The White House announced Friday that President Trump has elevated US Cyber Command to the status of a Unified Combatant Command, putting it on par with the military's other combat branches, such as the US Pacific Command and US Central Command.
Currently, US Cyber Command is part of the US Strategic Command, and it is directed by the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), Navy Admiral Michael S. Rogers.
The move, the president said in a statement, will consolidate cyberspace operations under a single commander and ensure that "critical" cyberspace operations are adequately funded. In conjunction with this move, Secretary of Defense James Mattis will consider whether to split Cyber Command from the NSA and will deliver his recommendation "at a later date."
President Obama had also considered elevating Cyber Command and splitting it from the NSA. The Obama administration established Cyber Command under US Strategic Command in 2009 to address the growing threat of cyber attacks. Elevating the agency acknowledges that Cyber Command's mission to conduct offensive and defensive cyber activities is distinct from the NSA's electronic intelligence-gathering mission.
The president's decision was commended by defense hawks in Congress like Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona.
"While we welcome this elevation, there is much more to be done to prepare our nation and our military to meet our cybersecurity challenges," McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. "We must develop a clear policy and strategy for deterring and responding to cyber threats. We must also develop an integrated, whole-of-government approach to protect and defend the United States from cyberattacks."
McCain also said he appreciates the administration's commitment to "ensuring that a future separation of the so-called 'dual hat' relationship between Cyber Command and the National Security Agency will be based on conditions, rather than arbitrary political timelines."