Gates officially establishes U.S. Cyber Command

Defense Secretary Robert Gates officially established the U.S. Cyber Command on Friday by announcing National Security Agency chief Keith B. Alexander as its first commander.

The announcement came after a ceremony at Fort Meade, Maryland, to award Alexander, an Army General, his fourth star. The command will be based at Fort Meade and tasked with safeguarding the nation's critical networks as well as coordinating all offensive cyber attacks. 

"Given our increasing dependency on cyberspace, this new command will bring together the resources of the department to address vulnerabilities and meet the ever-growing array of cyber threats to our military systems," Gates said.

According to the Air Force, Cyber Command will be charged with "pulling together existing cyberspace resources, creating synergy that does not currently exist and synchronizing war-fighting effects to defend the information security environment."

According to Pentagon officials, the command keeps with the Department's mission to protect and defend U.S. national security, and is not an expansion of the Department of Defense's mission. Some critics have argued otherwise, however, particularly since Alexander was named commander. The skeptics say Alexander's positions as head of an influential intelligence operation will give him unpredecented access to and control over the nation's networks.

The Pentagon hopes that Alexander's visibility and influence will help raise the profile and effectiveness of the new command. The new command is expected to be operational by October.