Edited from a Press Release
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The most challenging war we need to be prepared to fight may be in cyberspace. That’s the message that Secretary of State Mac Warner offered on Monday when he addressed nearly 500 law enforcement officials at Camp Dawson in Preston County. 


Secretary Warner was responding to formal action by President Donald Trump on Friday to elevate the country’s cyberspace operations to full combatant command status. According to Warner, this move will substantially strengthen the country’s effort to protect our people, government and critical infrastructure against cyber terrorism and cyberspace threats.

According to the Department of Defense, the elevation of the U.S. Cyber Command (CyberCom) to a Unified Combatant Command status will help streamline the command, as well as improve the control and response to time-sensitive cyberspace operations by consolidating under a single commander. 

The U.S. Cyber Command was formed in 2009 in response to the country’s challenge to protect ourselves from enemies using cyberspace to attack the United States and our allies. By the end of 2018, the Command will consist of nearly 6,200 personnel organized into 133 teams throughout the country and the world.

The elevation of CyberCom to Unified Combatant Command status also means that the commander of the unit will report directly to the Secretary of Defense. CyberCom has become the 10th Combatant Command Operation in the United States.

“This is a significant move that will bring the country’s strategy to protect us from cyber terrorism into a single agency that reports to the top. The new command will insure that our strategy is coordinated throughout all branches of the military as well as with state government operations,” Warner said.

“President Trump understands the threat. He knows that cyberspace is a new frontier for terrorism, one that threatens far out of proportion to the cost to inflict:  one hacker in Russia could potentially wipe out a city’s electrical grid here in the United States.  President Trump’s decision to elevate CyberCom to Combatant Command will bring the resources and attention we need to address the threats and protect our people,” Warner said.

Warner said that he believes the most important part of the President’s announcement is the support the new Command will be able to offer to the protection of the nation’s critical infrastructure, which now includes election systems and databases. Until now, CyberCom’s primary responsibility was to protect military operations and the federal government against cyber-attacks.

Over the last six months, Warner relied on his education and military background to become a leader at the national level in helping to improve the communication between the federal government and state elections officials. The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) endorsed Warner’s recommendation to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to provide secretaries of state with security clearances. The move would allow CyberComm and the National Guard to communicate directly with the Secretaries. DHS adopted Warner’s recommendation.  

Since taking office, Warner has focused a lot of his time and effort on recruiting an IT team of professionals who understand the threat that cyberspace brings to the Secretary of State’s office in particular. Warner developed a three-prong strategy to deal with cybersecurity in the Secretary of State’s Office: Protection – Detection – Correction.

“Our primary focus is on protection. But we aren’t foolish enough to believe that, despite our best efforts, there aren’t hackers out there who may be able to pierce our fire walls. That’s where our detection and immediate correction strategies kick in,” Warner said.

Warner encouraged law enforcement officials to educate themselves and stay updated on cyber threats, technology, and the improper use of computers to create havoc in cities large and small. Shutting down or contaminating water systems, air systems or electric power grids would create immediate chaos. Warner encouraged law enforcement agencies to work closely with community leaders and the utility industry to identify and assess possible vulnerabilities.

In addition, the Secretary of State’s Office is working closely with the West Virginia National Guard and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to increase communication among state and federal agencies. With the cooperation of Adjutant General James Hoyer, the National Guard and the Secretary of State’s Office are in the late stages of planning a partnership that will embed the level of resources of the military within the Secretary of State’s Office to diminish communication barriers.

Before being elected West Virginia’s 30th Secretary of State, Warner had a 23-year career in the United States Army. He retired as a Lt. Colonel after having served in countries throughout the world. He is a graduate of West Point and the WVU School of Law. He earned his Master’s Degree in International Law from the University of Virginia.