AFCEA International Chapter News

Speed of Cyber Evolution Drives Focus on C2

Although the United States is leading other countries in its development of cyber weapons and defenses, it faces a number of challenges, such as the need to limit collateral damage in cyber strikes and the difficulties of determining, in the face of an attack, whether a state of war should exist. So said Andrew Pennington, an Austin businessman with K2Share Corporation, who spoke in March to active-duty and industry professionals at the chapter's first Lunch & Learn event of the year. Pennington, who also serves as a reserve colonel in Air Force Cyber Command, offered an assessment of the U.S. cyberwarfare program in terms of historical life cycles common to weapons systems, and with regard to traditional concepts of chivalry and constraining warfare. If targeting is not precise and absolutely controllable—like dropping a bomb from a manned aircraft—nontraditional targets such as civilian infrastructure and hospitals could become collateral damage from a cyber-strike, Pennington said. That gives many policymakers pause, and contradicts the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC). But Pennington also noted the conundrum arising from unilateral application of the law in the U.S. if adversaries ignore it. Its over-constraining us, and under-constraining our enemies, he said. The cyber domain is at a key inflection point, as traditional weapons systems (such as multimillion-dollar manned bombers) near the end of their useful life cycle. Pennington emphasized that a weapon system is approaching retirement when more funding and design considerations are focused on defending the weapon than on its offensive effects. When this happens, a replacement is sought, and dropping cyber bombs to achieve strategic effects becomes more viable, for some targets, than kinetic bombing. Pennington also noted that the cyber domain is maturing much more rapidly than traditional weapons systems. As recently as 2007, when NATO stood up a new Cyber Defense Center, operators were still using manual processes like spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides for command and control (C2), and checklist-driven responses were the norm, Pennington said. But responding to hyper-attacks in cyberwarfare demands a different approach. The speed of the domain's evolution, along with recognition of legal constraints like LOAC, means an early focus on cyber C2. Historically, there is a repeated pattern of weapons systems development, and what you're seeing right now is that cyber is not following that, Pennington said. It's not following the traditional path of the spear, the battleship or the airplane, where development of command and control capabilities and doctrine significantly lagged development of the weapons. Today, commanders realize that situational awareness and C2 are part of the weapon itself. Looking ahead, Pennington foresaw a day when the U.S. military greatly expands its focus on cyberspace as an integrated domain. Absolute integration of cyber, intelligence, kinetic and other non-kinetic weapons into a common operational picture is paramount, he said. If cyber is to be successful, it must integrate with other weapons at all levels, and the most successful businesses will resolve this challenge.

Event Photographs:

In March, Andrew Pennington of K2Share Corporation discusses seminal events in the rapidly evolving cyber domain at a chapter Lunch & Learn event.
In March, Andrew Pennington of K2Share Corporation discusses seminal events in the rapidly evolving cyber domain at a chapter Lunch & Learn event.

For more details regarding this event contact:
Marla Dial

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