President Donald Trump has elevated the Department of Defense's Cyber Command to a Unified Combatant Command status, a status most often reserved for geographical commands.
In Friday's memo from the president to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Trump directed Mattis to find a nominee to fill the top spot at the new command.
"Pursuant to my authority as the Commander in Chief and under sections 161 and 167b of title 10, United States Code, and in consultation with the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, I direct that U.S. Cyber Command be established as a Unified Combatant Command," the order said. "I also direct the Secretary of Defense to recommend an officer for my nomination and Senate confirmation as commander in order to establish U.S. Cyber Command as a Unified Combatant Command."
After several high-profile hackings, some from foreign countries, cyber security has increasingly become a focus for the Department of Defense. The move will provide the command with greater resources and influence.
The idea to elevate the command's status gained momentum among Pentagon leaders and lawmakers recently as the organization's digital capabilities and personnel matured, Politico reported.
The command has been crucial in the U.S. military's fight against the Islamic State. It has worked to block the terrorist group’s digital payments systems and to infiltrate communications channels, disrupting networks for giving directions and recruiting new fighters, according to Politico. The digital war has not always been successful against ISIS, and continues to be a challenge for Cyber Command.
Combatant commands contain members from all branches of the military, and are the highest level of military organization. The combatant commanders are four-star generals or admirals who answer directly to the Secretary of Defense and the president.
Cyber will join Special Operations Command, Strategic Command, and Transportation Command in being unified combatant commands not based on a geographical region. Cyber Command previously fell underneath the umbrella of U.S. Strategic Command.