When cyberwar comes of age

New reports analyzing the Defense Department's efforts to conduct electronic warfare during military operations in Yugoslavia last spring give much cause for hope and some cause for concern about U.S. capabilities on this emerging front.

Of course, DOD officials are not saying much in public about a so-called cyberwar, but their actions speak volumes. Earlier this year, the United States established a team of information warriors to electronically attack Serbian networks and computers, according to a draft report written by the U.S. Naval Forces, Europe.

Although the information warriors had "great success" during the 78-day battle, according to the report, the effort had encountered problems. In particular, DOD's information warriors were "too junior and from the wrong communities" to plan and execute such operations, according to the report. Had information operations been properly executed, DOD could have cut the length of the campaign in half, the report states.

Obviously, DOD has entered a difficult stage in the development of its information warfighting capabilities. The Pentagon clearly understands the vast potential for cyberwarfare in military operations, as information systems infiltrate nearly every aspect of the battlefield.

But the Navy report suggests that DOD simply has not managed to bring together the resources it needs to put those ideas into action. Other aspects of military operations have been tested and refined in an endless string of battles, but DOD's information operations have not had the time and experience to mature.

Such shortcomings are expected in a technology still in its infancy. The real danger at this juncture is if Pentagon officials do not take this study to heart, in light of the cyberwar effort's apparent successes.

Cyberwar is coming of age rapidly. If DOD does not step up its efforts, it might find itself trying to play catch-up.

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