The U.S. Department of Defense Three Cyber Missions

by edwardmroche

Cyber security has now turned into a national security issue.  The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has a three sided set of cyber missions. These are:

  1. Defend military networks, systems, and information;
  2. Defend the U.S. as a whole, and all U.S. national interests against major cyber attacks;
  3. Provide cyber support to military operations.

The U.S. DoD plans to have 133 Cyber Mission Force Teams by 2018 including 13 National Mission Teams; 68 Cyber Protection Teams; 28 Combat Mission Teams; and 25 Support Teams.  Of course it is difficult to understand what this really means since there is no public information on these teams (where they are located; how large they are; etc.).

In a recently released document “The DoD Cyber Strategy“, the Pentagon has defined five strategic goals for its cyberspace missions. These are:

  1. Build and maintain ready forces and capabilities to conduct cyberspace operations;
  2. Defend the DoD information network, secure DoD data, and mitigate risks to DoD missions;
  3. Be prepared to defend the U.S. homeland and U.S. vital interests from disruptive or destructive cyberattacks of significant consequence;
  4. Build and maintain viable cyber options and plan to use those options to control conflict escalation and to shape the conflict environment at all stages; and
  5. Build and maintain robust international alliances and partnerships to deter shared threats and increase international security and stability.

The report notes (p. 9) that “From 2013-2015, the Director of National Intelligence [James R. Clapper] named the cyber threat as the number one strategic threat to the United States, placing it ahead of terrorism for the first time since the attacks of September 11, 2001.”

Conducting “cyber war” is challenging perhaps because there is no strategic balance of power that can be detected.  Any attack, even against a weaker nation, can result in a counter attack.  The reason is that barriers to entry for development of cyber weapons is very low.  Tim Starks argues in “Does cyberwar make sense?” that it does not.  He quotes James Andrew Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies as saying that currently there is no cyber war, there is “only” espionage.  The intelligence community is very concerned.  Robert Brouse’s working paper “Cyber War, Netwar, and the Future of Cyberdefense” is an example.  He writes that “[J]ust as Cyber defense organizations have been required to confront Cyberwar, Netwar organizations, or Netwar-savvy Cyberdefense organizations, are increasingly needed to counter Netwar.”

We can assume that similar thinking is taking place around the world, in different governments.

Even though there is great investment going into these efforts, thus far, there is hardly any talk at all about cyber arms control.  We are still in the learning stage.