The Senate has taken a significant step towards creating a U.S. Cyber Force as it approved its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, a $886 billion defense policy bill. The bill includes an amendment from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that calls for an evaluation by the National Academy of Public Administration to assess the feasibility of establishing a separate Armed Force dedicated to cyber operations.
Pentagon leaders have been hesitant about an independent cyber service, but the need for a Cyber Force has gained support due to the challenges in providing trained personnel for Cyber Command from existing military branches.
The proposed Cyber Force has gained momentum after the Senate’s approval of the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed in an 86-11 vote. The bill now goes to conference with the House to work on a final compromise. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s amendment directs the Defense Department to conduct an evaluation to determine whether establishing a cyber-specific military service is advisable and how it would compare in performance and efficacy to the current model. The assessment would be conducted by the National Academy of Public Administration and will not be subject to any undue influence or interference.
While Pentagon leaders have been cautious about a separate Cyber Force, the limitations of existing military branches to provide adequately trained personnel for Cyber Command have raised concerns among policymakers.
The Senate Armed Services Committee leaders called out the shortcomings of the branches in supporting Cyber Mission Forces, citing difficulties in training and retaining personnel with the necessary skills. The Cyber Force proposal aims to address these issues and bolster the nation’s capabilities to conduct cyber operations and support intelligence operations.
However, the fate of Gillibrand’s amendment remains uncertain as it goes through conference negotiations with the House for a final decision.