Department of Defence sanctions creation of new, united military command focused on protecting America from online attack - and waging information warfare
America has confirmed that it will be creating a new Pentagon "cyber command" to bring together the country's various hi-tech military units under one roof.
US defence secretary Robert Gates ordered the formation of the group earlier today, following a period of debate over the best way to defend the country from attacks over the internet.
The command - which will unite a string of organisations run by the army, navy, air force - plans to tie them together into a single, coherent group that is able to both defend the United States from information warfare and strike out at hostile nations if necessary.
The Department of Defence said that the group is set to begin operating later this year, and plans to be fully operation by October 2010.
The move comes amid growing concern over the possibility of and the threat of cyber-espionage - including perceived attacks from inside China and Russia.
In recent months a series of leaks have revealed security breaches - including the US electricity grid and the theft of documents detailing the $300bn Joint Strike Fighter project. Though it is usually impossible to trace the perpetrators of such actions, US officials have said they suspect that such attacks are sponsored by a foreign state as part of an ongoing espionage campaign.
Last week Gates's deputy, William Lynn, said that cyber warfare is now one of the biggest challenges to the US military.
"Once the province of nations, the ability to destroy via cyber means now also rests in the hands of small groups and individuals: from terrorist groups to organized crime, hackers to industrial spies to foreign intelligence services," he said in a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
"This is not some future threat. The cyber threat is here today; it is here now."
According to reports, the front runner to take control of the new organisation is General Keith Alexander, currently the director of the National Security Agency, which has run an extended campaign to take control of the nation's cyberdefences.
Last month President Obama publicly committed to creating a new White House role to oversee the civil aspect of cyberdefence - treating the country's digital networks as a "strategic national asset" for the first time.
"Protecting this infrastructure will be a national security priority," he said at the time. "We will deter, prevent, detect and defend against attacks and recover quickly."
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