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Cyber-focused British command operational

April 4, 2013 at 12:08 AM   |   Comments

LONDON, April 4 (UPI) -- A recently created joint British defense command focusing in part on improving cyberwarfare capabilities is fully operational, the British Ministry of Defense announced this week.

A ministry statement Tuesday said the Joint Forces Command, established last year in the wake of an independent report slamming the British military for its inter-service squabbling, had become fully staffed under its four-star commander, Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach.

"The significant milestone means that the Joint Forces Command is now ... fully manned and able to fulfill the entire range of its responsibilities in support of Defense's objectives for current operations, future contingencies and for the longer term," the statement said.

Peach, appointed in December 2011 to establish the command, called it "an essential element in the transformation of U.K. Defense" and an "idea whose time has come."

The military bureaucracy shake-up that resulted in the creation of the JFC was begun with the 2011 release of a report by former Lloyds of London Chairman and London Mayor Peter Levene that lamented what it called a top-heavy, mistrustful, inefficient and indecisive military culture, The Guardian reported.

The Levene report urged the creation of a new joint forces command structure to ease tensions between the services and to foster links in operational areas common to each, such as intelligence and surveillance.

Shortly afterward, the defense ministry announced its stepped-up cyberwarfare efforts would be consolidated into a new entity called the Defense Cyber Operations Group under the new joint command.

Britain's coalition government made cybersecurity a top-level priority in 2010.

In written testimony to the House of Commons Select Defense Committee in May, defense officials said Peach's role in elevating the status of cybersecurity across all levels of the British military would be sweeping.

"As commander of JFC, Air Chief Marshal Peach will lead on the development of cyber capabilities across Defense -- as well as ensuring that they are fully integrated into planning and operations.

"He will also champion the development of cyberskills and training across Defense, ensuring that we manage our scarce cyber-resources to best effect."

The mission of DCOG, which is to be fully operational by March 2015, is to "mainstream" cybersecurity throughout the defense ministry and to "ensure the coherent integration of cyberactivities across the spectrum of defense operations," producing "a significantly more focused approach to (cyberwarfare)."

The command becomes operational in the wake of warnings from the select defense committee that the military's dependence on computer networks so great that a sustained cyberattack could "fatally compromise" the nation's defenses.

Calling DCOG "more illusory than real," the lawmakers chided, "The government needs to put in place -- as it has not yet done -- mechanisms, people, education, skills, thinking and policies which take into account both the opportunities and the vulnerabilities that cyber presents.

"It is time the government approached this subject with vigor."

In response, the defense ministry last month acknowledged for the first time it has developed the ability to launch offensive cyberoperations, The Times of London reported.

It said that while Britain would act within the laws of armed conflict, if necessary, it would launch "anticipatory self-defense" cyberwarfare strikes.

"The test, including the evidential base of what would be considered an imminent attack is high," it said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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