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Cyber Looms as a Serious Asia-Pacific Theater Vulnerability

December 3, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Much has been promised in the digital realm, but it may not be fully deliverable in a time of conflict in that vast region.

U.S. forces may be over relying on cyber to meet challenges in the Asia-Pacific region at a time when potential adversaries view it as a key to disrupting U.S. operations, according to the top leaders of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM). Lt. Gen. Thomas L. Conant, USMC, deputy commander of PACOM, offered that U.S. forces must expect to operate without at least some of their cyber assets in a time of conflict.

Speaking at the opening breakfast at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii, Gen. Conant quoted his commander, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, USN, as saying, “We have built cyber on a house of cards.” The general continued that the Pacific Command is beholden on what cyber has promised, which may be more than it can deliver.

“We’re going to be on a denied battlespace; they won’t let us have all the comms,” Gen. Conant said of cyber activities by adversaries. “We’ll have to learn how to do task forces again.

“Cyber is a supporting effort,” Gen. Conant declared. It will provide battlefield effects, but it might be coming out of a variety of sources, and its effect will be cumulative. “Will cyber be there when we try to plug it in and have the effect that we want?” he asked.

“Your cyber people need to be right next to your operators,” he continued. The operator must describe to the cyberteam what he is trying to do, and the cyberteam must determine how it is done.

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