The Defense Department will likely set up a so-called CYBER COM in the future, elevating the current unit to a place on par with current unified combatant commands, a top general said, but warned the organization shouldn't be too focused on cyber alone.
"Someday that will come. I think that's just a logical progression," said Gen. John Hyten, the leader of Air Force Space Command.
But Hyten said that despite having responsibility for the cyber domain, any future command should remember that cyber is integrated in all warfighting operations.
"My own personal perspective is that I have actually a little bit of a challenge with a command that is only focused on a single domain," Hyten said Tuesday at the annual Association of Old Crows symposium in Washington, D.C.
The geographical commands, as well as the Transportation, Special Operations and Strategic commands, all incorporate air, land, sea, space and cyber operations from all service branches, so a cyber command needs to be mindful of how its operations will affect all other areas of the military, the general said.
"We have to be careful as we walk into the cyber command of the future that we have a single domain that is just not focused on cyber and cyberspace [but instead] is focused on cyber to support the joint warfighter," Hyten said.
"If you don't do that correctly, if you go through that, you can create your own little fiefdom here that is a little bit focused only on the cyber side and not focused on the entire joint fight," he said.
The U.S. currently has a Cyber Command, a subunified command that operates under STRATCOM and is headed by Navy Adm. Michael Rogers. But with cyberspace becoming an increasingly important part of national defense, there has been discussion of elevating the command to an even higher authority.
Hyten compared the situation to the U.S. Space Command that operated from 1985 until 2002. As a fan of space operations and exploration, the general said he personally enjoyed an organization focused solely on that issue. But from an operational standpoint, Hyten said it was a mistake to try to separate space and not integrate it with the rest of the military.
"What we ended up with, when we had that kind of command, was a command that was focused on space for space's sake," he said. "We have a lot of great leaders that came from the U.S. Space Command that really, really focused on trying to make sure that the focus was not on space for space's sake, but space in support of the warfighter. But it was a huge challenge because it was built for all the space guys."
The general said he dislikes the term "cross-domain," as it implies that there are still silos of responsibilities and roles. Instead, current and future warfare is increasingly integrated and involves all domains from the very start — a lesson Hyten hopes will be remembered when a unified combatant command level cyber organization is set up.
"We're going to go there, I think that's the natural progression," he said. "We just have to make sure that we create it as a joint force."