A Real-War Education

Cyber Command’s months’ long fight against ISIS is teaching it lessons that could have otherwise taken years to learn, Air Force Lt. Gen. Kevin McLaughlin, CYBERCOM’s deputy commander, said Wednesday. “We are really learning and changing a lot,” McLaughlin told House Armed Services Committee members. “There’s no one saying, ‘That’s the way we’ve always done it,’ because the way we’ve always done it has only been about two or three years, so we’re changing as we need to.” The anti-ISIS effort, known as Operation Inherent Resolve, is CYBERCOM’s first at-scale opportunity to support combatant commanders and McLaughlin said one lesson the whole department has learned is “cyber capabilities aren’t just there to solve cyber problems,” noting they can be used against adversaries’ non-cyber capabilities as well. The operation has also revealed that CYBERCOM’s mission force is properly structured and integrated with US Central Command, McLaughlin said. As of June 10, he said, 4,684 people make up 46 cyber mission force teams that are at a “fully operational capable status” and 59 teams that are at “initial operating capable status.” The goal is to have 133 teams that include 6,187 members. “The broader challenges we have is this team is still a young force,” McLaughlin said. “In many cases, this is the first actual live opportunity for these forces to conduct that type of mission.” Brig. Gen. Charles Moore, the deputy director of global operations for the Joint Staff, said the Pentagon is focused on increasing the speed of cyber operations, which will be critical for the continued support of combat operations.