Ultimately, Many Cyber Operations May Be Local

November 15, 2012
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Despite the definition of cyber as an unlimited domain, some activities in a cyber conflict may best be left up to area commanders. This builds on the concept that the effects of cyberwar ultimately would be local to regional forces and governments.

This assessment emerged from a panel of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) directors at TechNet Asia-Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii. PACOM suffers from the same cyber challenges as other commands, but its area of operations includes some nations that are actively conducting cyberoperations against U.S. assets.

Brig. Gen. J. Marcus Hicks, USAF, director, Communications Systems, J-6, U.S. Pacific Command, raised the issue of PACOM having some authority over cyberoperations in its region. With cyber as a joint operating arena, the commander should be able to make cyber decisions within his theater. The idea would be to make risk decisions locally at a high level.

From the intelligence perspective, Rear Adm. Paul B. Becker, USN, commander, PACOM J-2, pointed out that the United States sees cyber as seamless and global, covered by laws of behavior. In reality, PACOM must deal with others that view cyber as a national resource, in some cases having “a great firewall.”

With cyber as the fifth domain, it has the potential for undoing advantages in the other four. Maj. Gen. Michael A. Keltz, USAF, director, strategic planning and policy (J-5), PACOM, declared that air, land and sea warfare is a thing of the past. The new doctrine is cross-domain warfare; and a country that gains control of the nonkinetic domain could obviate U.S. supremacy in the kinetic realm.

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