U.S. Marine Corps Cyberspace Command: A Force for the Digital Age

There was a time when battles were fought only on land or at sea. The arena of combat shifted with the development of air travel, the old paradigms of orderly melee giving way to newer, messier ones that involved bombs dropped from above. But innovation once again made its presence known with the more recent invention of the Internet. Now, battles can be digital. And though the likelihood of a civilian neighborhood getting leveled by errant ordinance has diminished, the potential for collateral damage via ill-gotten data is no less insidious. Who will protect Americans from this new threat? The United States Marine Corps Cyberspace Command, of course.

Cyber attacks are no trivial matter, and the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command clearly appreciates this fact. Today, a hacking attack occurs every 39 seconds, and hackers aren’t teens camped up in their bedroom late at night. More than 95 percent of all cybercrimes affect three industries: retail businesses, technology firms, and the government.

IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Rometty discusses Cybercrime and impact on Marine Corps Cyberspace Command
IBM Chairman, President and CEO Ginni Rometty

And nations have joined the fray, as evidenced by recent Russian hacking threats.

Because of this, cyber attacks have become threats to national security. Information is power, and like many powerful tools, it can be wielded to threaten the welfare of others.

This is where the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command steps in.

What Is the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command?

The Marine Corps Cyberspace Command was established in 2010. Its creation was part of a coordinated effort to safeguard against new cybercrime threats. Just as the Corps falls under the umbrella of the Department of Defense, the Marine Corps Cyber Command serves the U.S. Cyber Command alongside other armed forces branches. Out of the total 133 Cyber Command Force teams, the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command supplies 13 teams.

To say the structure of the Marine Corps Cyber Command is complex is an understatement. In one aspect, the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command can be viewed as having offensive and defensive sections. The defensive efforts seek to bolster data and information system protections. The offensive strategies proactively pursue deterrent measures to reduce threats.

The different Marine Corps Cyber Command teams include the Cyber Mission Teams, Cyber Protection Teams, Cyber Support Teams, and a National Mission Team.

“…Russia is a full-scope cyber actor, employing sophisticated cyber operations tactics, techniques and procedures against U.S. and foreign military, diplomatic, and commercial targets, as well as science and technology sectors.”Army Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, Head of U.S. Cyber Command

MCCOG: Marine Corps Cyberspace Command’s Ops Division

In addition to having offensive and defensive directives, the Marine Corps Cyber Command has two additional divisions. The Marine Corps Cyber Operations Group (MCCOG) is the actual operations arm of the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command. The MCCOG is charged with defending the Marine Corps’ entire enterprise network as well as service provider networks. And it responds to operational threats as they occur.

In addition, it gathers intelligence, analyzes information, and provides technical support to joint operations worldwide. MCCOG is the arm of the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command that provides new technology to help Marines in combat. Such operations may involve defensive techniques to protect intelligence and communications. Or they may involve enhancing strategies related to secure information sharing.

MCCWG: The Marine Corps Cyberspace Command’s ADMIN Division

The Marine Corps Cyber Command Warfare Group (MCCWG) has a different role. In essence, MCCWG serves as administrative headquarters, but it is solely responsible for cyberteam development. Specifically, MCCWG organizes, trains and equips the mission teams for Marine Corps Cyberspace Command. Likewise, MCCWG recommends certification of these teams to U.S. Cyber Command.

Senator Mike Rounds discussing Marine Corps Cyberspace Command
Sen. Mike Rounds Discussing Cyber Funding

Overall, MCCWG employs over 800 personnel. Their responsibilities are to oversee the readiness of the 13 cyber mission teams for which the Marine Corps Cyber Command is responsible. Both MCCOG and MCCWG work in tandem to execute a seamless strategy of preparation, support, and execution in the fight against cyber attacks.

Innovation and Leadership Guiding the Way

Qualified personnel with cybercrime expertise are in high demand in the world of business. But the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command has excelled in finding and recruiting talent, despite competitive struggles with civilian markets. Earlier this year, The Marine Corps created a cyber career field. With this new designation, an additional 1,000 billets for cyber, electronic warfare and information operations are now in the budget to allow the Marine Corps to fight and win in the modern cyber battlefield.

This will be a major undertaking under the new commander of Marine Corps Cyberspace Command Maj. General Matthew Glavy. Previously, Maj. Gen Glavy served as Deputy Director of Current Operations at Cyber Command and most recently served as the commander of the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing

Lt. Gen Reynolds discussing the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command
Lieutenant General Loretta “Lori” Reynolds

Bold leadership and innovative approaches to the problem are reasons for its success. Lieutenant General Loretta “Lori” Reynolds, former Commander of Marine Corps Cyber Command, helped greatly. In addition to her inclusive leadership style, Lt. Gen Reynolds encouraged new measures to attract top talent in the field.

“We need to start thinking outside of the box on some of this [recruitment] stuff because, monetarily, it’s really difficult to keep up with [private] industry offers.” – Lieutenant General Lori Reynolds, Former Commander of Marine Corps Cyberspace Command

Without question, the Marine Corps Cyberspace Command will have formidable challenges ahead. But with bold leadership, innovative thinking, and vigilance in pursuit of its mission, those challenges can be overcome.

These core attributes of the Marine Corps Cyber Command enable it to be the bold force that it is today.

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