Cyber Operations Span the Globe's Largest Theater

October 15, 2009
By Kent R. Schneider

This is a time when everyone needs to be part of the cyber debate. Our dependency on the cyber environment is greater than ever. Cyber is being recognized as a priority domain for warfare. U.S. capabilities and those of the nation’s allies are growing, but the threat is growing and becoming more sophisticated at an alarming rate.

Both state and non-state players are active in this domain. The new U.S. administration has put a very high priority on the cyber environment and on cyberwarfare and has commissioned a number of studies to determine the way ahead. But the path remains unclear for the United States and, certainly, as the country works with its coalition partners around the globe.

This is particularly complicated in the Asia-Pacific region, where the United States lacks the broad framework of a long-standing alliance such as NATO in Europe. In the Asia-Pacific region, the United States has mostly bilateral relationships, and no two are exactly alike.

Even where the United States does have mature agreements in place, there continues to be serious debate over a broad range of cyber issues. There is not even consensus over whether a cyberattack constitutes an act of war. NATO, for example, could not reach agreement over the applicability of Article 5—in which an attack on one nation is considered an attack on all—as a consequence of the cyberattacks on Estonia and Georgia. If these fundamental issues are still up for debate in a mature alliance such as NATO, it is easy to imagine that consensus within the looser framework of the Asia-Pacific region would be even more difficult.

Everyone is going to want to be part of this discussion, whether it’s a military or a government employee seeking to optimize his or her service or an industry player with potential solutions to offer. The cyber domain presents a set of issues requiring national and international attention.

This cyberspace challenge is being brought to the fore at the 24th annual AFCEA TechNet Asia-Pacific conference and exposition, which will be held November 2-5, 2009, at the Sheraton Waikiki and Royal Hawaiian Hotels, Honolulu. This year’s theme is: “Cyber Operations: A Multinational Challenge.” Cyber operations are a topic of high interest everywhere, but nowhere is cyber more important than in the U.S. Pacific Command area of operations, where many of the world’s major cyber players operate.

Many people are talking about cyber these days, but only this program focuses on the unique cyber issues in the Asia-Pacific region and what is being done to deal with them. The conference features a very strong program with experts from throughout the United States and the Pacific Rim. It focuses on the situation in the Asia-Pacific region and is tailored to multinational environments. Panels will address cyber acquisition (co-hosted by the National Contract Management Association, or NCMA); multinational operations, which is moderated by Vice Adm. Richard Hunt, USN, commander, U.S. Third Fleet; the way ahead for the Pacific Rim, which is moderated by author Capt. George Galdorisi, USN (Ret.); an industry perspective on cyber challenges and opportunities; equipping the warfighter—defining requirements, which is moderated by Lt. Gen. Carroll Pollett, USA, director, Defense Information Systems Agency; and J-6 priorities for enabling cyber operations, which is moderated by Brig. Gen. Brett Williams, USAF, director, J-6, U.S. Pacific Command.

Many key people from U.S. Pacific Command will participate at TechNet Asia-Pacific representing all of the service component commands for the Pacific; there also will be representatives from key commands throughout the Pacific Rim, including those in Japan, Korea, Okinawa, Guam and others. Their presence at this single location provides a rare opportunity for all conference attendees. It would take a great deal of effort to visit and gain insights from all of these people if you had to travel to their individual home-base locations.

TechNet Asia-Pacific attendees will have the opportunity to meet and talk to the senior leadership in the Pacific, and this comes at a significant time. Many of the top positions in the Pacific have new leaders this year. Some will speak in the conference plenary sessions, and most will be available during the conference to meet with attendees and visit exhibitors.

And, a record number of exhibitors this year will be available to show the latest developments in the command, control, communications, computers/information technology arena in the Asia-Pacific region and globally. This will include both industry and government exhibitors.

The bottom line is that people concerned with cyber issues and the Pacific Rim do not want to miss TechNet Asia-Pacific 2009. It represents a unique chance to engage the leaders in the Pacific and to participate in this important discussion. It will benefit everyone involved for attendees to add insights on the cyber domain, and it will help us determine how we can assist in defining the way forward, along with the applicability of cyber activities in the Pacific environment.