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Likely DOD pick helped drive Cyber Command buildup

President Obama’s presumptive choice to head the Pentagon, Ashton Carter, played a key role in reorganizing U.S. Cyber Command in 2013.

As the Pentagon’s second-in-command in 2013, Carter was influential in the decision to grow Cyber Command to 40 total cybersecurity teams, roughly 4,000 people total. Thirteen of those teams will focus on cyber offensives, a notable shift for the military.

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“It's terribly important,” Carter said during the 2013 Aspen Security Forum when discussing the expansion. In several speeches, Carter stressed the need to increase cyber investments despite shrinking defense budgets.

If confirmed, Carter would have a chance to see the implementation of the plan he helped originate. The Cyber Command buildup is set to be complete by fall 2015.

Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelFormer Republican national security officials demand GOP leaders denounce Trump's refusal to concede election Republicans who could serve in a Biden government How a tied Senate could lead a divided America MORE announced his resignation last week, agreeing to stay on until there is a replacement. Carter has previously served in both the second- and third-highest ranking slots at DOD, but left the agency in December 2013.

Carter’s educational background is heavy on science. He has a bachelor’s degree in physics from Yale University and a doctorate in theoretical physics from the University of Oxford.

In mid-2013, Carter described in Aspen his vision for Cyber Command's future. It's meant to buttress the National Security Agency’s (NSA) cyber intelligence gathering, he said.

“What we're trying to do is create another set of people, also associated with NSA and [Cyber Command], whose mission is defense, development of capabilities for the U.S. military, second, and, third, playing our role in the defense of the nation," Carter explained.

Part of that defense is developing the Pentagon’s cyber offensive capabilities. Carter warned that DOD must move cautiously in this area.

“It's a new field of warfare,” he said. “It's things like, are you sure that a particular action you take with an enemy's information system will only have the consequence of disrupting, let us say, an air defense system and not wider consequences?”

There are also ambiguous questions around who has the authority to order such offensives, Carter added.

“It's fair game for a wider conversation,” he said.

If Obama has his way, Carter may soon be leading that conversation.