U.S. mulls offensive info warfare strategy

A debate is brewing in the Defense Department about whether the United States should continue to pursue offensive strategies to attack enemies via cyberspace, thereby opening the door to future coordinated and sophisticated attacks by other countries, according to an author of a recently released study.

"There are some in the Pentagon and elsewhere who believe that it will not be to the net advantage of the U.S. to see [the use of strategic information warfare] become widespread," said Roger C. Molander, a senior research analyst with Rand Corp. and one of the authors of "Strategic Information Warfare Rising," a study commissioned by DOD to develop a strategy and policy framework for dealing with strategic information warfare issues. In fact, Molander added, there are many in DOD who "eschew attackinginfrastructures through cyberspace as a new principle of warfare."

The report, which has been circulating within DOD for at least six months, recently was used by DOD to formulate a response to a recent Russian proposal before the United Nations General Assembly that called for the U.N. to study the global security threat posed by the development of offensive strategic information warfare (IW) capabilities. The U.N. is scheduled to debate the issue in the fall.

According to the Rand report, there are four "plausible and potentially desirable" scenarios facing the United States and the world when it comes to strategic information warfare:

U.S. supremacy in offense and defensive strategic IW.

A club of strategic IW elites, whereby a policy of no first use of strategic IW capabilities could be established.

Global "defensive dominance" in strategic IW, whereby a regime would be established to control the spread of strategic IW similar to biological and chemical weapons.

Market-based diversity, whereby the damage or disruption achievable through a strategic IW attack is modest and recovery is fast.

According to Molander, the report successfully outlined the parameters to help guide senior DOD policy-makers through the decision-making process when it comes to strategic IW. This study is about "the idea that you can shape the future," Molander said.

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