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Cyber National Mission Force is DoD’s Newest Subordinate Unified Command

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During a ceremony at the U.S. Cyber Command Headquarters, the Cyber National Mission Force was officially designated as the Department of Defence’s newest subordinate unified command. The CNMF is the joint cyber force of the United States military, tasked with defending the nation in cyberspace through full-spectrum operations that include offensive, defensive, and information operations.

CNMF assists the United States Cyber Command and national priorities such as election security, ransomware, cyber espionage, and other crisis and contingency operations. The establishing officer was U.S. Army Gen. Paul M. Nakasone, commander of U.S. Cyber Command, who officiated the elevation ceremony.

“This [CNMF] command is so special because they’ve always been on the cutting edge regarding the operations we’ve conducted,” said Nakasone, a former CNMF commander. “Within U.S. Cyber Command, this command has always taken the first step forward. As a result, the Cyber National Mission Force has a bright future.”

The sub-unified command designation, according to CNMF commander Maj. Gen. William J. Hartman reflects CNMF’s success in election defence, the Russia-Ukraine crisis, counter-ransomware operations, global hunt operations, and support to thousands of operations of national significance.

“What this designation means is that the Cyber National Mission Force has matured as a forward-thinking organisation to defend the Nation,” Hartman added. “It’s about building a sustained readiness model that enables us to stay in a fight. It all comes down to our people: how we create a dynamic model for recruiting, assessing, training, and retaining the world’s most talented cyber force.”

CNMF began with 21 teams, 13 Cyber National Mission Teams and eight Direct Support Teams. CNMF comprises 39 joint cyber units organised into six task forces, with over 2,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, Guardians, and NSA and DIA civilians.

The mission of the CNMF is to plan, direct, and synchronise full-spectrum cyberspace operations to deter, disrupt, and defeat adversary cyber and malign influence actors. The CNMF is a component of the Department of Defence’s effort to defend cybersecurity as a national security concern. It collaborates closely with DHS, the FBI, other agencies, and industry, academic, and international partners.

After receiving authorisation from the Secretary of Defence or the President, a combatant commander establishes a subordinate unified command to carry out a portion of the mission or tasking of their parent command.

The designation of CNMF as a sub-unified command recognises its long-standing mission of combating foreign malicious cyber actors reflects its ongoing success in advancing national priorities and formalises its organisational structure.

The promotion to sub-unified command will influence how forces are presented to the CNMF, how they are trained, and what authorities the command will have. These critical factors will allow a more prepared staff to carry out U.S. Cyber Command and Department of Defence operations.

The establishment of CNMF as a sub-unified command demonstrates how quickly cyber evolves and how the Department of Defence evolves with it. Cyber Command was the military’s youngest sub-unified command in 2010. Cyber Command has now been promoted to a combatant command, and CNMF is the military’s newest sub-unified command.

Since its inception in 2014, the United States Cyber Command’s Cyber National Mission Force has rapidly evolved to meet the nation’s needs. The task force has participated in or responded to nearly every U.S. crisis.

The task force had fully operational in 2018; the CNMF has carried out nearly 40 hunt forward operations and thousands of remote cyber operations and participated in or responded to almost every national security crisis the United States has faced. Since 2020, the Department of Defence has regarded election security as a permanent mission led by the ESG.

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