President Trump announced Friday he is boosting U.S. Cyber Command to a full combatant command, triggering a review of whether it should separate from the National Security Agency.
Speculation has swirled for months that Trump could elevate the command, a move that was also considered by the Obama administration.
It's a sign of the organization's growing significance in an era when cyber warfare has become the norm.
The decision comes before Trump travels to Camp David later Friday to meet with his national security team.
“The elevation of United States Cyber Command demonstrates our increased resolve against cyberspace threats and will help reassure our allies and partners and deter our adversaries,” he said.
Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE will lead a review of whether to split Cyber Command from the NSA. A recommendation will be made "at a later date," Trump said.
Through fiscal year 2017 defense policy legislation, Congress authorized the president to elevate Cyber Command, which spins it out as its own warfighting unit from under the U.S. Strategic Command. However, lawmakers have sparred over whether the unit should be split off from the NSA.
Currently, Cyber Command and the NSA are headed by the same official, Adm. Mike Rogers. The current fiscal year's National Defense Authorization Act says that the Pentagon must study the effects of such a change to the dual-hat leadership of the two organizations before splitting them.
While experts and former officials say that such a split is inevitable, they caution that splitting the two up too quickly could have negative effects. Cyber Command was set up at NSA headquarters just eight years ago.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMeghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' Grant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Will Trump choose megalomania over country? MORE (R-Ariz.) was vocal about his opposition to the split during the Obama administration. In a statement Friday, McCain welcomed Trump's announcement, cheering 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."
McCain noted, however, that "there is much more to be done to prepare our nation and our military to meet our cybersecurity challenges."