More Ashore: Navy’s Tenth Fleet Prepares To Patrol Cyber Space

If you think an Aegis radar in a cornfield is odd (see Rebecca Grant’s preceding post), how about a whole fleet with no ships? That’s what the Navy’s Tenth Fleet is — a virtual warfighting formation being stood up as the naval component of the U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, MD. Fort Meade is home of the National Security Agency, the signals-intelligence organization that is at the center of U.S. efforts in cyber defense and network attack. Each military department is contributing staff to the new joint command, but the Navy has assigned the most high-powered component commander.

On October 22, Vice Admiral Barry McCullough was nominated to head the Fleet Cyber Command and Tenth Fleet. Up to that point, the Tenth Fleet was an historical oddity — an anti-submarine and convoy escort unit assigned to the Atlantic Fleet during World War Two that never had its own ships and was disbanded when the war ended. But under Adm. McCullough it promises to become a powerhouse of cyber warfare, the leading edge of warfighting ashore in the information age. The reason why is that McCullough is an intense, nuclear-trained engineer who is likely to understand the technological intricacies of cyber space far better than his counterparts in other services.

McCullough played a central role in advising the Chief of Naval Operations on how to cope with an emerging ballistic-missile threat to its surface warships. That effort resulted in plans to upgrade Aegis destroyers and cruisers while terminating the next-generation Zumwalt-class destroyer at three vessels. More generally, McCullough has proven adept at grasping the intersection of strategy and technology, bringing his profound technical depth to bear on a number of crucial military questions. So it is no surprise that he was selected to be the first head of the reborn Tenth Fleet, and it should also come as no surprise when the Navy becomes primus inter pares – first among equals — in joint-force efforts to prepare for information warfare.