There are many issues in incorporating adequate cyber defense systems into the current warfighting domains, however, an independent U.S. Cyber Force for which many defense professionals argue is not the answer. A U.S. Cyber Force separate from other warfighting domains would be disadvantageous, add to an already bureaucratic system, and the argument for such a force is based on fundamental misunderstanding of cyberspace. Cyber is used as, and should be viewed as, a compliment to already existing warfighting domains and should not be viewed as a transformational force in its own right that is deserving of its own domain. The solution, instead, should be to train leaders in each Service in order to have cyber capabilities which are tailored and effective for each unique branch of the military.
The first argument against the creation of a U.S. Cyber Force is that it would add to an already-overly-bureaucratic system. While the current land, sea, air, and space warfighting domains have similar goals, they may have different strategies for how to implement them and will naturally have organizational and cultural differences that often hinder coordination. Creating a separate, independent cyber force would certainly just add to the current lack of coordination between existing entities and would just add more levels of bureaucracy to an already bloated system.
What’s the Advantage?
Cyber operations are typically beholden to three types of actions: offensive, defensive, and espionage. None of these types of actions call for a separate U.S. Cyber Force, and in none of them do we see any clear advantage of a centralized entity. Offensive actions only in cyberspace offer no real advantage (unless cyber is being used as an instrument for other warfighting domains) because it is not similar to typical military offensives. In other domains, the purpose of an offensive is to damage the target. This is quite difficult in cyberspace according to Martin Libicki. “The primary purpose of fighting is to disarm the other side. Think about that analogy in cyberspace and it falls apart. It is very difficult to disarm another nations ability to use hackers in cyberspace and you almost certainly cannot do it with hackers themselves” (Libicki, 2009). The biggest problem with a centralized force if we look at defensive actions is access. It would be unwise to put a system’s vulnerabilities directly in the hands of a mass organization such as a U.S. Cyber Force. In terms of espionage, the entire point is to secretly gain access or surveil targets. The creation of a U.S. Cyber Force would be counterproductive to the goal of espionage and just telegraph to enemies what we do not want them to know – that the U.S. is spying on targets. Additionally, cyber cannot function independent of the traditional land, sea, air, and space Services. It can only be used militarily as an additive to existing domains.
An Alternative Solution
Given these issues, an alternative solution should be cyber divisions in each respective warfighting domain and training top officers to conduct, or at least have a grasp of cyber operations. Internal training and education are both imperative.
Written by Sarah Wood