Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Military Space News .

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Analysis: A new USAF cyber-war doctrine

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Shaun Waterman
Washington (UPI) Oct 17, 2007
Recent pronouncements by U.S. Air Force officials about their view of cyberspace as a war-fighting domain have attracted little attention. But the questions they raise for U.S. military policy and doctrine are profound.

"Cyber(space) is important to the nation," said Gen. Robert Elder, the military officer in charge of the U.S. Air Force's day-to-day cyberspace operations, acknowledging the dependence of U.S. commerce and banking on the Internet, "But to the Air Force, it's really important."

He told a recent briefing organized by the Air Force Association that cyberspace was vital because it was the key to the U.S. military's fabled cross-domain dominance.

"When we talk about the speed range and flexibility of air power" -- to deliver satellite-guided strikes to effect the outcome of a battle on the ground for example -- "the thing that enables this for us is the fact of our cyber-dominance," the ability to move data and control signals through cyberspace -- which as the Air Force defines it is the entire electromagnetic spectrum.

The Air Force is in the process of standing up a fully fledged Cyberspace Command, alongside its Space and Air Commands, but Elder, like other senior officials, denied that the move was a turf grab.

He elaborated on the consequences of the Air Force's view of cyberspace as a war-fighting domain by analogizing it to the maritime and air domains, both of which were simultaneously the venues for commerce and daily life, and potential vectors for military action by or against the United States.

"We in the Air Force think the air is a war-fighting domain," he said, "but that doesn't mean we expect Delta or United (Airlines) to think it is."

He said there was a diverse and overlapping series of authorities and legal frameworks for activities in cyberspace, and the full policy implications of seeing it as a war-fighting domain had yet to be worked through.

"We have had situations before where the intersections (with other agencies) żż have been difficult," he said.

He said there were "shades of gray from law enforcement (to) homeland security, (to) homeland defense to some kind of expeditionary operation (like Iraq). Where do we say, 'We've crossed the line now'?" into the war-fighting realm.

He said there was also a tension between war-fighting objectives and intelligence-gathering ones.

Elder said partnership with civilian agencies like law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security, which has the lead in securing the nation's critical infrastructure including its cyber-capacity, was the key for the Air Force.

"What we're really trying to do with these partnerships is close the gaps" between military and civilian authorities and agencies. "We need to have clearer interaction with these other agencies," he said.

Some believe the laws governing cyberspace might need to be changed, he said. "Ultimately they may, but until we fully understand how it works between these very different areas of business -- law enforcement, homeland security, commerce -- we can't just say, 'Here's what we should change.'"

But other Air Force officials see U.S. military policy as too timid. "Legislation, policies and international law are lagging the technology" in the cyber-domain, Lani Kass, a senior adviser to U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley, told another recent conference. "The United States is late to the fight."

She said U.S. tactics in cyberspace were constrained by political correctness.

"Today it is much easier to get permission to kill the enemy, to drop a bomb on a terrorist hideout, than to culturally offend them. In other words, take a beheading video, take it off the net, and substitute -- whatever you like: Bay Watch? The technology is there. It's there in the civilian world. But the policies are such that you can't do that."

One congressional official told United Press International that caution was appropriate in what he called "virgin territory" from a strategic theory point of view.

"If we drop a bomb on a house, we have a pretty good idea of what the collateral damage will be żż if we take down a server somewhere, the possible results are a lot less clear."

Elder said from a defensive point of view, the Air Force is interested not just in protecting its own networks, which he called "perimeter security," but also in "getting out beyond the wire" and building "defense in depth" in the cyber-domain.

On any Air Force base, he said, the ultimate last line of defense is the sidearm that every airman carries. He said a "cyber-sidearm program" would give "every airman the tools, right on their laptop or desktop" to defend the cyber-domain.

But Kass believes "if you're defending, you are late."

"Cyber favors the offense. Defense in cyberspace in my humble opinion is a loser's game."

She said cyberspace "is a domain that allows you to deliver effects disproportionate to the level of investment," and that could thus provide U.S. adversaries with asymmetric advantages.

"To dominate on land, at sea, in the air, and in space, you need to invest a fairly significant amount of capital, training, equipment. żż In the electromagnetic spectrum of the cyber-domain a very minimal investment allows you to inflict damage totally disproportionate to your level of investment."

Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Related Links
Cyberwar - Internet Security News - Systems and Policy Issues

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Global approach needed on cybercrime: experts
Geneva (AFP) Oct 5, 2007
Telecoms and computer executives, legal officials and UN agencies on Friday warned that the world needs to take a global approach to tackling cybercrime and security issues on the Internet.

  • USS Fort McHenry Mission To Set Tone For US Africa Command
  • Walker's World: Inflating Russian reality
  • Analysis: China's unique assets
  • US reassures Russia on bases, warns over arms sales

  • Commentary: Not since Stalin
  • Bar Iran from nuclear arms to avoid World War III : Bush
  • Putin boosting Russia's interests with Iran visit
  • Israel PM heads to Russia after Putin's Iran visit

  • Russian Military Chief Says No Need To Give Up INF Treaty
  • Pentagon confirms accidental Patriot launch
  • Cruise Missile Sector Facing Supersonic Challenge
  • NKorea tests new solid-fuel missile, MP says

  • US could change missile shield plan if Iranian threat subsides
  • Barak, Gates discuss joint US-Israel anti-missile system
  • Russia's Army Chief Criticizes US Missile Defense Proposals
  • Putin sees US shift in missile shield row

  • MEPs seek limits on aircraft emissions by 2010
  • New Delft Material Concept For Aircraft Wings Could Save Billions
  • Aircraft And Automobiles Thrive In Hurricane-Force Winds At Lockheed Martin
  • Cathay Pacific chief hits out at anti-aviation critics

  • BAE Systems Led UCAV Programme Breaks New Ground
  • Reaper Aids Commanders On Battlefield
  • UAS Video Terminal Connects Boots On The Ground To Eyes In The Sky
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Increase In Numbers

  • Bush urges Turkey against Iraq incursion
  • SKorea set to decide on troops in Iraq
  • Gates mulls central authority over Iraq security contractors
  • Pentagon sees little Turkish appetite for an Iraq incursion

  • Thompson Files: Osprey myths
  • iRobot Awarded US Military Order For PackBot Robots
  • Northrop Grumman's LITENING AT System Completes Bold Quest Demonstration
  • Defense Focus: Border business -- Part 1

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement