Marines focused at the tactical edge of cyber, says commander

Today there are 300 Marines and civilians handling cyber operations as part of the Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command (MARFORCYBER), and what differentiates them from personnel at the other military cyber commands is their focus on forward-deployed warfighters.

"Where we differ is that we look more at tactical-level cyber operations and how we will be able to provide our forward-deployed Marine air-ground task force commanders with the capability to reach back into the cyber world (at home) to have their deployed units supported," said MARFORCYBER commander Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, who was interviewed for an article written by American Forces Press Service. “We're more focused at the tactical level, the tactical edge of cyber operations, in supporting our forward-deployed commanders, and that's what we should do.”

The air-ground task force that Mills referred to integrates ground, aviation and logistics combat elements under a common command element.

MARFORCYBER stood up in January 2010, and will expand to about 1,000 people by 2016, reports the American Forces Press Service.

The following comments from Mills address other Marine Corps cyber issues, as quoted by the American Forces Press Service.

One coordination with other cyber commands: "All four of the component commanders talk regularly to each other and meet regularly at CYBERCOM (U.S. Cyber Command) to coordinate our growth, coordinate our requirements, (provide) input to CYBERCOM and take its guidance and direction, and operate together in big exercises like Cyber Flag (an annual exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, NV).”

On the role of contractors: "One of the challenges of cyber is that it's such a dynamic environment. You need people who are educated and current in their specialties and who are available to stay on the job for long periods of time, whereas Marines come and go in the normal assignment process.

"They all operate under the same clearance requirements, the same authorities, the same rules. That's one of the things that make them so expensive. They come at a cost, but you have to bear it to make sure that your cyber capabilities are current and that you stay on the cutting edge."

On the impact cyber on defensive and offensive operations: "I think cyber commanders now understand when you go forward you have to be able to defend your systems against intrusion by other states, by rogue elements and even by hobbyists who are just trying to break in and infiltrate your nets. But they're also beginning to understand the positive effects cyber can have in your operations against potential enemies. It's a very valuable tool in that quiver of arrows that a commander takes forward, and they want to understand how it operates."

On cyber weapons: A cyber weapon "can be something as simple as a desktop computer. It's also a vulnerability to you, because it's a way in which the enemy can enter your Web system if you put the wrong hardware on there or open the wrong attachment or email. The armories of the cyber world are very sophisticated computers and very sophisticated smart people who sit behind those computers and work those issues for you.”

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