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Frustrated by reports of the U.S. Navy’s underperformance in cyber operations, Congress has made an unusual request. The Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act instructs the secretary of defense to report to Congress by 2024 on whether the Navy should continue contributing forces to U.S. Cyber Command. This request raises the unprecedented possibility that an armed service would not contribute forces to a joint combatant command. 

The National Defense Authorization Act provision may be merely an expression of congressional pique. In any event, the consequences of extricating the Navy from Cyber Command would be far-reaching. They would be harmful to the Navy, Cyber Command, and the overall defense of the nation. For the Navy in particular, it could undermine recruitment and retention of cyber talent, impede relevant experience and joint competency of Navy personnel, reduce relevant access, increase bureaucratic friction, and create issues involving legal authorities. Moreover, without Navy presence in planning and operations, Cyber Command could miss the distinctiveness of maritime issues in its preparations for a major Indo-Pacific conflict. Finally, excusing the Navy from Cyber Command decreases the effectiveness of joint operations critical to successful campaigns against an all-domain peer power in an increasingly hostile cybered world.

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