The Pentagon has approved a major expansion of its cyber security force over the next few years –increasing the division’s size fivefold to bolster the nation’s ability to defend critical computer systems and conduct offensive computer operations against foreign adversaries, according to an article from the Washington Post.

The command will expand to include 4,900 troops and civilians. It is currently made up of about 900 personnel that has focused on defensive measures, the article reports. The gravity of cyber threats has been highlighted by a string of sabotage attacks, including one in which a virus was used to wipe data from more than 30,000 computers at a Saudi Arabian state oil company last summer, the Post reports.

The plan calls for the creation of three types of forces under the Cyber Command:

  • “National mission forces” to protect computer systems that undergird electrical grids, power plants and other infrastructure deemed critical to national and economic security;
  • “Combat mission forces” to help commanders abroad plan and execute attacks or other offensive operations; and
  • “Cyber protection forces” to fortify the Defense Department’s networks.

According to the Washington Post article: “Although the command was established three years ago for some of these purposes, it has largely been consumed by the need to develop policy and legal frameworks and ensure that the military networks are defended. Current and former defense officials said the plan will allow the command to better fulfill its mission.”

“Although generally agreed to by the military’s service chiefs, the plan has raised concerns about how the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force will find so many qualified cybersecurity personnel and train them. It also raises deeper issues — which are likely to intensify as the Cyber Command grows over the years — about how closely the command should be aligned with the National Security Agency, the giant electronic-spying agency that provides much of its intelligence support.”