Cyberpoints Weekly Column: A Slow Start for US Cybercom



By John Wheeler

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John is starting this week a new weekly column dedicated to the cyberspace domain: he will  continue to provide regular insights into how to shape effective con-ops in the cyber domain and craft a Terms of Reference for facing XXIst Century cyber challenges.

John has a wide range of combat and government experience.  He is a West Point graduate with warfighting experience in Vietnam.  He has significant private sector experience, as well as holding various positions in government, including being Secretary, US Securities and Exchange Commission.  His most recent position as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force included principal tasks, among which were standing up Cyberspace Forces and placing Precision Strike technology and Real Time Streaming Video targeting links into the hands of groundfighters in combat.


John Wheeler
John Wheeler

Welcome to SLD Cyberpoints Weekly Column

“Only the dead have seen the end of war”

George Santayana wrote, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”  In Cyberspace he will certainly be proved right, and in the minds of many who watch the predations going on in Cyberspace upon Corporate, Military and Personal data bases, he has already been proved right.

In ways similar to the evolution of the Undersea Domain in the early 1900’s and the Air Domain in the 1910’s and 20’s,  the Cyberspace Domain is being developed and discovered, with the military implications still at a very young stage. There abound policy and technical, training and recruiting, equipping as well as doctrine questions in large number. Huge contracts for Cyber are being let by Government and Industry.

“Cyberpoints” is meant to take a weekly look, on Thursdays, at an issue or event in light of the larger flow of development of the Cyberspace domain.  Input, tips, heads-up, comment and correction are most welcome.

New books, articles, pending legislation, needed legislation, Corporate pronouncements, DHS, State, DoD, VA and other Agency Cyber Matters are all of interest.  Cyberwar is not the only thread; Cybersecurity for Corporations and Individuals is a core topic, as is the way each of the tools of diplomacy and war can combine and impinge as to Cyberspace.

For example, when the Secretary of State says that the United States is committed to “Freedom of the Internet”, that means, really, “Freedom of Cyberspace”, invoking the history, heritage and heavy freight of the doctrine of “Freedom of the Seas.”  There is plenty of policy work to do and unfold as to “Freedom of Cyberspace.”


Cyberpoints No. 1
February 25, 2010


For this first Cyberpoints, the topic of concern is USCYBERCOM and the delay in meeting the October 31, 2009 deadline set by the Secretary of Defense. Going into March, as far as public announcement is concerned, and confirmation of the Commander, LTG Keith Alexander,  there is a missed deadline of four months.

As commander, General Alexander brings both a Warfighter point of view and an Intelligence point of view, a strong combination. He is a 1974 graduate of West Point, a classmate of General David Petraeus, steeped in the Principles of War and the scholarship on the History of the Military Art, and the Infantry and Combined Arms Training in the Cadet curriculum.

It appears, from information that is known or suspected among Congressional Cyber staffers, that two issues are holding up the confirmation:

  • One is contracting matters, perhaps related to past contracts let in the past.
  • The other issue, it is thought, is the “color of money” to pay for USCYBERCOM, Title 10 US Code (Warfighting) or Title 50 (Intelligence).

This is however group speculation, and is only a guess. The study called for by SECDEF may simply also take longer than first thought, as the complexities of Cyberspace become developed and known.

Is there a cost to this delay?  Probably not a great cost. The Army, Navy and Air Force are progressing in their own Cyber lanes, to be arms of USCYBERCOM in due course, and it naturally takes time for the various interests involved to awaken to the array of issues posed by Cyberspace and its evolution.

That Title 10 versus Title 50 seems to be a discussion is a good sign. In due course, Congress will almost certainly have to incorporate Cyberspace into Title 10, as a matter of giving complete guidance to Advise and Consent appointees in Defense. Space, Air, Sea and Land are in Title 10; Cyberspace so far is not.

The group speculation in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill also includes a guess that the larger issues of Privacy and an edginess toward an Intelligence presence in the Cyberworld of corporations and citizens is troubling.  In that connection, generally, there is more trust of the Military in corporate and citizen defense, since the nation and culture are used to the Military as defender in the Land, Space, Air and Sea domains.

As war domains have evolved, in time and after the pain of battle, war, victory and defeat, the Military has found itself the most heavily involved government agency in the domain. So it will probably be in Cyberspace, as the decades come and go.

Finally, it may be that at the highest policy levels, in the National Security Council, the delay meets larger policy needs as seen by the President.  Speculation abounds.


  • One thought bandied about in DC lanes is to bifurcate the Commander Confirmation from the Standup Itself,  so that the USCYBERCOM can get underway.
  • An announcement regarding the status of the standup and the delay, as to progress and causes for the holdup, would be valuable and help unify effort and public understanding.

Beijing, Moscow, others watch with interest.


More to Follow…

Comments Welcome ([email protected])


***Posted February 25th, 2010