The Pentagon has approved a plan to dramatically expand its cyber force to more than five times its current size, according to a recent report by The Washington Post.
The report, published Sunday and citing unidentified U.S. officials, said that Cyber Command’s security force is currently made up of about 900 personnel but will be expanded to 4,900 after the details of the plan are finalized.
Without confirming the Post’s report, and while stressing the “pre-decisional nature” of the proposal, a defense official told ABC News the Pentagon is working with the various Combatant Commands and U.S. Cyber Command “to develop the optimum force structure for successfully operating in cyberspace within the authorities and requirements of the department.”
In broad strokes, the enlarged command will include three types of cyber forces: “national mission forces” to protect computer systems for critical infrastructure in the U.S., “combat mission forces” to help launch offensive operations, and “cyber protection forces” to protect the Defense Department’s own networks, according to the Post.
Top U.S. officials, including outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, have recently highlighted the importance of American cyber strength. In a speech in October, Panetta discussed the rise of destructive cyber weapons and warned of a potential “cyber Pearl Harbor.”
It’s been nearly three years since cyber security researchers discovered Stuxnet, the first cyber weapon capable of causing physical damage to critical infrastructure. That malicious code, which targeted an Iranian nuclear facility and was reportedly part of a joint U.S.-Israeli cyber offensive, was the first of a handful of powerful cyber tools that have been discovered “in the wild” on computer networks around the world.