Sen. John McCain's call for the creation of a cyber-security Select Committee has been added to this story. WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- Highlighting the scale of the cyber-security challenge facing the U.S., the Department of Defense has unveiled its first strategy for operating in cyberspace, vowing to improve its ability to deal with increasingly sophisticated digital attacks. "It is critical to strengthen our cyber capabilities to address the cyber-threats we're facing," said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, in a statement. "I view this as an area in which we're going to confront increasing threats in the future."
The Department of Defense unveiled its first strategy for operating in cyberspace on Thursday.
The strategy calls for the U.S. military to treat cyber-space as an operational domain, similar to land, sea or air, and promises new "operating concepts" to protect defense networks and computers. Other parts of the initiative include partnering with other government departments, agencies and the private sector to develop a comprehensive strategy and building robust relationships with international allies and partners. The Defense Department also promised to build an "exceptional" cyber-workforce. With 15,000 networks and more than 7 million computing devices, the Department continues to be a target for malicious cyber activity, according to Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn. "The cyber threats we face are urgent, sometimes uncertain and potentially devastating as adversaries constantly search for vulnerabilities," he said in a statement. From Lockheed Martin ( LMT) to Citigroup ( C) and even the CIA, the list of major organizations falling victim to hackers is growing at an alarming rate, fueling worries that government departments and core U.S. infrastructure are at risk. Speaking during a speech at the National Defense University in Washington on Thursday, Lynn explained that, over the last decade, terabytes of data have been "extracted by foreign intruders" from the corporate networks of defense companies. In a single incident in March, he said, some 24,000 files were taken. Set against this backdrop, the Defense Department has been ramping up its cyber-security efforts, establishing the U.S. Cyber Command to coordinate day-to-day activities last year and recently strengthening its coordination with the Department of Homeland Security. The Pentagon has also said that it would consider a military response to a major cyber-attack against the U.S.