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Everyone Is a Participant in Information Operations

December 2008
By Kent R. Schneider

While information operations has been a priority to at least a small percentage of the global security community, it is becoming a mainstream discipline as part of the cyberwarfare initiatives now gaining precedence throughout government and industry. Recent experiences in Estonia and Georgia have convinced even the most skeptical person that cyberwarfare is a global priority and a significant combat multiplier.

We all know how dependent we have become on computers and digital systems and services in everything that we do. Cyberwarfare capitalizes on that dependency—ours and the enemy’s. All critical infrastructure is vulnerable—ours and the enemy’s. This extends to power generation, pipelines, financial systems, information systems and other services controlled digitally. Information operations, or IO, pertains to that subset of cyberwarfare that involves the generation, transmission, storage and use of information.

In Estonia and Georgia, we saw two different uses of IO—two applications, both effective. In Estonia, the means to support everyday life and the economy were targeted through denial of use. This was done effectively and in a way that was difficult to trace back to its source. Experts still are debating the true source of these attacks. In Georgia, IO was used as preparation for kinetic attacks. As effective as artillery preparation, IO caused command and control and intelligence to be significantly degraded, slowing response to the kinetic attacks. Regardless of the specific objective, IO has proved to be an effective means of warfare in this digital age.

In the United States and around the world, governments are organizing and equipping their forces to conduct effective IO. In the U.S. Defense Department, the Joint Staff has the lead for requirements and combat developments distributed among the J-3, the J-5 and the J-6. The U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) is the combatant command with the lead for cyberwarfare, and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is home to the Joint Task Force–Global Network Operations, which reports back to STRATCOM. Each of the military services has developed a cyberwarfare capability that contributes to this joint effort. Companion efforts are underway in the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies engaged in fighting the Global War on Terrorism.

Meanwhile, countries everywhere are developing similar capabilities to preserve their infrastructures and warfighting potential. We are working with our international partners to refine IO and cyberwarfare for coalition operations. Nowhere is this more critical than in NATO because of current operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. In NATO, the headquarters consultation, command and control (C3) staff, the NATO C3 Agency and the NATO Communication and Information Systems Services Agency all are engaged in development and employment of IO and cyberwarfare capabilities for the alliance and its partners.

Areas of industry mobilization include IO and cyberwarfare in general. This is an extremely complex problem, both in the offense and the defense, and it is made more difficult by the dynamic nature of the technology and the threat. New technologies and methods are emerging daily, making defense of networks and other critical infrastructure increasingly difficult and making positive identification and location of sources extremely challenging. Industry around the world is actively engaged in addressing these issues and working closely with government. AFCEA is part of this process, helping promote dialogue among government, industry and academia on current and future requirements, as well as approaches to effective partnership.

This month, the fourth in our series of Solutions events will feature cyberwarfare. Our government co-sponsor is the Joint Staff, J-3, J-5 and J-6. We will have representatives from STRATCOM, DISA, the military services, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other civil agencies. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff will be a speaker. We will explore the emerging policy and doctrine, the current state of effort and industry requirements in this critical discipline. This is an important dialogue, and it represents an opportunity not to be missed.  The event will be held at the ReaganCenter in Washington, D.C., December 10-11, 2008. Registration is available on the AFCEA Web site (www.afcea.org/events/solutions/08/cyber/intro.asp). For those unable to attend the event, online participation is available, and AFCEA’s Web site provides instructions on how to take part virtually. This is such an important area for the entire community—you need to be involved.

At the request of STRATCOM, we will follow up with a cyberwarfare event in Omaha, Nebraska, on April 7-9, 2009. Because of the longer format, we will be able to conduct a more detailed examination of the progress and needs in this discipline. Both unclassified and classified sessions will be held in Omaha. Again, it is important that the entire community participate in this critical event.

If you are not already engaged in cyberwarfare and IO, you need to become involved. There is no more critical endeavor in the global security community today. We need everyone’s attention to this problem.