JTF-CND to JTF-CNO to JTF-GNO to Cybercom

A very interesting military organization was stood up in the late 1990’s, a unit called the Joint Task Force – Computer Network Defense (JTF-CND).  This command was created after a series of thorny cyber incidents that DoD had a hard time addressing with their current organizational constructs.  Services had defensive organizations, DoD law enforcement had investigative and forensic experts, the intelligence community (DIA, CIA, NSA) had growing insights, agencies, like DISA, generally had growing computer emergency response centers.  But no one had an ability to pull all the info together and coordinate a defense.  And, more importantly, no organization had command authority with an ability to direct action across DoD.

After many sessions in the secure conference room at the Pentagon reserved for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (a place lovingly referred to as “The Tank,”) a decision was made that a Joint Task Force would be stood up to mount a defense.  Debate then began over who this group would work for.  The Air Force wanted the mission. As the debate continued, the decision was made to stand the group up before final word was given on where it would report.  As an initial decision, the JTF was stood up under the authority of the secretary of defense and would report to the Secretary via the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command Control Communications and Intelligence (ASD C3I).

I joined this group pre-standup, reporting to its designed commander (General John “Soup” Campbell, USAF, one of the nation’s best fighter pilots and a terrific joint qualified leader).  I was to be his J2. I have to tell you, it sure was good working for an operational command that reported to senior OSD staff.  They really helped us get up and running.

Meanwhile, the politicking began!  It is pretty funny in hindsight, and I only repeat this now so others can learn from these behaviors.  But the “mission grab” mentality set in in a couple places.  The biggest to get the fever was the US Air Force.  They really really wanted this JTF to report to them so they could be master of all Cyber, thereby justifying their lead role of all cyber for the DoD and the nation (“Aim High!” as the slogan goes).  Since they were rebuked by the other Services (none of them wanted to grab the JTF but they sure didn’t want the Air Force telling them what they could do in their nets), that didn’t happen.  The next to push hard for the mission was US Space Command. By 1999 a Tank level decision was made that the JTF-CND would operationally report to US Space Command.  For me as the J2, that was a GREAT relationship.  The J2 at US Space was a world class best professional intelligence officer with a mission focus and a staff of leaders who really got it.  They adopted the attitude that they would find ways to serve the mission and they quickly became part of the solution (I’m not sure my other J-code friend would report the same success with their staff counterparts).

Over time OSD decided to merge the space and strategic missions and JTF-CND moved under US Strategic Command.  Then evolved as cyber missions expanded till we have reached the stage we are at today, where JTF-CND now formed the core of US Cyber Command.

I’ll provide more on all this later, including some personal insights into friends from those days who are still very active in the cyber mission.

For now, here is some more reporting as provided by American Forces Press Service, posted at the defense.gov site:

Cyber Task Force Passes Mission to Cyber Command

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 7, 2010 –  After spending the better part of the past decade defending the Defense Department’s computer networks, the Joint Task Force Global Network Operations command cased its colors.

The task force was deactivated in a ceremony today here at the Defense Information Systems Agency. The task force’s operations and personnel now fall under U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Md.

Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, presided over the ceremony. Although the ceremony marked the end of the task force’s tenure, its mission continues, he said.

“Today we’re rolling the flag at JTF-GNO, but we’re not rolling the mission,” Chilton said. “This mission will continue on at U.S. Cyber Command and will be as essential tomorrow as it is today to the United States of America.”

The task force was short-lived, but it was the product of 12 years of initiatives and foresight to develop the best ways to operate on the cyber battlefield. JTF Computer Network Defense was created in 1998 under the U.S. Space Command.

That task force had a dual mission to conduct offensive and defensive cyber operations. It was reorganized to fall under Stratcom in 2003. By 2004 the task force was redesignated as JTF Computer Network Operations to assume the offensive role. The JTF Global Network Operations also was established.

The new task force’s mission was to direct the operation and defense of the global information grid throughout the full spectrum of war fighting, intelligence and business missions within the department.

Since its activation, JTF Global Network Operations has ensured support to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, Operation Noble Eagle and the overall global war on terror.

Cybercom was activated in May. The JTF Computer Network Operations followed soon after. JTF Global Network Operations’ deactivation culminates years of work and effort to integrate Cybercom into its operations, Chilton said.

“It was clear that our missions needed to come together, and we’ve done that,” the general said. “The transition began this year, and it’s going to continue today.”

Chilton praised JTF Global Network’s final commander, Army Lt. Gen. Carroll F. Pollett, who he said changed the culture of network accountability within the department and got leaders involved in cyber security.

“The command and control was not as tight as it needed to be to confront the threats of today,” Chilton said. “[Pollett] made our networks commanders’ business. You brought that focus to every service and DoD agency.”

Pollett assumed command of JTF Global Network Operations and duties as director of the Defense Information Systems Agency in November 2008. He remains director of DISA.

JTF has played a significant role “in setting the conditions for the future” of the department, cyberspace operations and the nation, Pollett said.

As the JTF Global Network Operations colors are retired for the final time, Pollett said he’s reminded of the historical significance of the transition of the task force to Cybercom.

The information environment, he said, has evolved dramatically, and today the information grid is more than something that enhances capabilities.

“[Information] has become an operational imperative in our ability to deliver decisive capabilities to warfighters and our national leaders,” the general said. “Cyberspace has evolved into a new warfighter domain.

“[Cyberspace has proven equal and just as important as air, sea, land and space as a domain,” he continued. “It’s clear that it must be defended and operationalized.”

Pollett praised the people under his command for their efforts, calling them “pioneers” on the cyber domain front.

“It’s an honor to recognize the [JTF Global Network Operations] men and women, past and present, for their extraordinary accomplishments in working in the cyber domain,” Pollett said. “You led the way for dramatic changes in the Department of Defense as the mission, requirements and threats evolved.”

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