Maj. Gen. Lorna Mahlock assumed command of U.S. Cyber Command’s elite Cyber National Mission Force in a ceremony Friday.
The CNMF’s chief mission is to defend the nation from significant cyber threats. It is made up of 39 joint teams and thought to have the Department of Defense’s most talented cyber operators at the cutting-edge of their profession. It is aligned in task forces organized against specific threat actors. They have been on the front lines of defending elections from foreign influence, protecting critical infrastructure and, most notably, for conducting so-called hunt forward operations which involve physically sending defensively oriented cyber protection teams to foreign countries to hunt for threats on their networks at the invitation of host nations.
“CNMF has always been the ‘go-to’ force when our nation has a challenge in the cyber domain,” Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of Cybercom and director of the National Security Agency, said while presiding over the ceremony, according to a release. “These joint cyber operators are a powerhouse that punch above their weight against some of the world’s most reckless and determined foreign malicious cyber actors.”
Hartman has led the CNMF since 2019, overseeing its elevation to a sub-unified command under Cybercom last December — an indicator of the organization’s importance. Predecessors dating back to Nakasone, who also helmed the group, have only held this job for a maximum of two years.
“It has been an honor to lead the CNMF and the talented young Americans who work tirelessly to defend our nation,” Hartman said. “I am incredibly proud of all you have accomplished over these last few years, and I know you will continue to be the elite cyber force our nation needs.”
Mahlock comes into the role after most recently serving as the deputy director for combat support at the Cybersecurity Directorate within the NSA. Her appointment to CNMF, along with Hartman’s, was part of the months-long backlog due to the blanket hold on senior military officer confirmations that was imposed by Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville in protest of the DOD’s abortion policies.
“It is an honor to be selected as the next commander of the Cyber National Mission Force,” Mahlock said. “I have had the opportunity to observe you from afar and I am humbled by the opportunity to serve alongside you. You are our nation’s elite cyber warriors, competing daily against a threat that is very real, but which few can comprehend, quantify or see.”
Given its prowess, commanding the CNMF has generally been thought to be a launching pad for promotion and appointment to higher commands. Prior commanders of the CNMF include Nakasone, Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh — who has been confirmed to replace Nakasone — and Vice Adm. Timothy White, who retired in 2020 as the commander of 10th Fleet/Fleet Cyber Command.