Cyber Command Elevated to Combatant Command

Army Lt. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone takes command of U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency from outgoing chief Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers during a change-of-command ceremony at Fort Meade, Md., May 4, 2018, (Screen grab from DoD webcast)
Army Lt. Gen. Paul M. Nakasone takes command of U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency from outgoing chief Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers during a change-of-command ceremony at Fort Meade, Md., May 4, 2018, (Screen grab from DoD webcast)

Army Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone took command of U.S. Cyber Command Friday at a ceremony that elevated the organization to the U.S. military's tenth unified combatant command.

Nakasone assumed command of Cyber Command and the National Security Agency from Navy Adm. Michael Rogers during a change-of-command ceremony at Fort Meade, Maryland.

"Today, we are at a dawn of a new era, facing the reality of war's changing character -- the emergence of cyberspace and outer space as contested warfighting domains, equal in importance with land, sea and air," said Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.

"Cyberspace is not bound by geography, it is not bound by the physical prowess of our adversaries; the next 10 years will look significantly different than the last 10 more than any of us can likely imagine."

Shanahan thanked Rogers for "anticipating the demands of the cyber before they had been fully articulated" during the last four years of his leadership.

"Nations as different as Russia and China seek to leverage cyberspace and build asymmetric advantage over our military, and terrorists use the cyber domain to spread their poisonous ideology of hate," Shanahan said.

"In this environment, there can be no complacency as we field a lethal, resilient and adaptable joint force capable of defending the nation," he added.

Rogers, who will soon retire after 37 years of service, thanked the men and women under his command for their outstanding performance.

"Four years ago, we were handed a structure and a plan. Our job was to take that structure and that plan, build it out, create a vision, operationalize this idea and ensure that was integrated into a broader set of activities executed by the Department of Defense," he said.

In addition, Rogers praised his troops performance in the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, "our first real challenge on the offensive side."

"I know what you have done. The leadership of this nation knows what you have done," he said. "It is a reflection of this organization, the Department of Defense and this government's belief in you that we will elevate Cyber Command to a combatant commander as Gen. Nakasone assumes his role -- that is a testament to you and everything that you have done."

To Nakasone, Shanahan said, "Adm. Rogers has built capability and integration -- your challenge is to build scale and to strengthen our arsenal of cyber weapons, cyber shields and cyber warriors."

Nakasone, who will soon be made a four-star general, said the country is at a "unique point in our history, where in cyberspace we are confronted with both rapidly changing technology and adversaries that would seek to threaten this country in new and unprecedented ways."

Nakasone praised the newly constructed, integrated cyber center, which has been designed as "a nerve center for critical national security, cyberspace missions tying together two powerful, national organizations -- the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command."

"These connected buildings provide real-time coordination symbolic of the partnership between two great organizations, who trap our adversaries, provide warning and, if called upon, defend the nation," he said.

Nakasone added that he is proud to be part of a new beginning for Cyber Command.

"From defensive operations protecting our networks to offensive operations against ISIS and other adversaries, Cybercom has matured rapidly," he said.

"Our team has both the challenge and, more importantly, the opportunity to build a combatant command from the ground up. The elevation today marks a proud day for Cybercom and the nation, and I am fortunate to be here today to lead you in this next chapter of our great history," he said.

It's also "a new day for the National Security Agency," Nakasone said.

"Along with Cyber Command, we face similar challenges of adaptive adversaries and dynamic technologies that demand all we have to offer," he said.

"NSA will continue our unfailing role as a vital combat support agency to our nation's military forces," he added. "We will also continue to be the elite foreign signals intelligence producer across the globe. Coupled with our closest partners and allies, we are an irreplaceable cornerstone of our intelligence community."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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