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Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the newly appointed director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, said in a keynote at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association 2014 Cyber Summit that properly operationalizing cyberspace will be USCYBERCOM’s biggest challenge to date.

“At U.S. Cyber Command, as the new guy, I’ve said we need to focus on what a subunified command should be doing and not doing. We’ve got to optimize, focus and prioritize, so let’s ask ourselves what we’re doing that we shouldn’t be doing,” Rogers said.

Rogers explained that USCYBERCOM is working on strategies to develop five key capabilities that will enable teams to engage adversaries in cyberspace, which was officially designated as a standalone military domain in 2010, and that partnering with the Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA, in defending DOD networks will be critical.

“I believe that for DISA to achieve what it needs to do with respect to how it’s going to operate and help us defend the networks, a portion of DISA [must] become an operationalized entity focused on maneuvering and defending the networks,” Rogers said.

“We have to give DISA the ability to come up with a command-and-control node that can coordinate with others in defending the DOD information networks” that would “enable U.S. Cyber Command to function at the operational level of war. That’s our niche and that’s where I think we generate the best return and the best outcome.”

Rogers outlined three priorities for moving forward:

  • Train everyone to the same set of standards
  • Make sure the 6,000 member staff is trained and certified by the end of 2016
  • Generate capacities in the teams focused on defending critical networks

“This is hardest in some ways, because to truly defend a network takes a host of partners, [and] … synchronizing all areas of defense at one time is master’s-level command and control in the cyber environment,” Rogers said. “But I would argue it’s the most important in some ways because we’ll be tested every day on our ability to defend the department’s networks and, if directed, defend other networks.”