New cyber doctrine shows more offense, transparency

The Pentagon has outlined a military strategy that goes beyond previous doctrine in its focus on offensive cyber operations.

futuristic cyberwar

The Pentagon this week published a doctrine that was unusually candid about offensive scenarios in cyberspace, a transparency that experts say could lead to an open and perhaps overdue policy debate.

The document, released internally by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in February 2013 and publicly on Oct. 21, argues that the "growing reliance on cyberspace around the globe requires carefully controlling OCO [offensive cyber operations], requiring national level approval. This requires commanders to remain cognizant of changes in national cyberspace policy and potential impacts on operational authorities."

The document also clearly defines offensive cyber operations as those "intended to project power by the application of force in and through cyberspace." The document is a reference point for top brass in planning cyber operations, not something that the budding force of thousands of military cyber specialists will draw on in day-to-day work, if ever.

Jay Healey, director of the Atlantic Council's Cyber Statecraft Initiative, said the document was a welcome departure from past military practice of over-classifying discussions of strategy.

"Just think of ... the problems of classification over the last 10 years. By completely classifying 'China' and what was going on, treating it like it was a huge counterintelligence secret, it delayed us from trying to react to Chinese espionage, in ways, for decades," he said.

Healey, a former member of a cyber war-fighting unit in the Air Force, hopes that making the document public will open up debate among experts and officials on U.S. military goals for cyberspace. Physical conflicts in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan came with at least some debate of strategy, he said, so why not the same for cyberspace?

Robert M. Lee, a digital forensic specialist and Ph.D. candidate at King's College London, agreed that in a military often hampered by over-classification, "to get to the point where we can declassify some of this is a big step" that will prompt debate among experts in and out of government.

The newly released doctrine, banally named Joint Publication 3-12 (R), builds on a 2006 document known as the National Military Strategy for Cyberspace Operations (NMS-CO), which then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace described as the armed forces' "comprehensive strategic approach for using cyberspace to assure U.S. military strategic superiority in the domain."

The NMS-CO touched on cyber offense, but another key document, DOD's Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace (SOC), published in July 2011, made no mention of it at all. The day the Pentagon unveiled that strategy, Gen. James Cartwright, then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the U.S. approach to cyberspace was "too predictable" and lamented the lack of an offensive strategy.

There is no one authoritative document on U.S. military cyber operations. But there is a body of literature whose shape reveals the trajectory of U.S. policy.

In that sense, the newly released document could help bring offensive cyber operations to the fore, Lee said. The doctrine is "legitimizing that seat at the table, where you are absolutely going to see offensive cyber operations used more often and more openly. I think there's an argument to be made that it would be done anyway, but documents like this that really firm it up add to the process," said Lee, who is an active-duty Air Force cyber warfare operations officer.

Codifying an offensive cyber option builds it into the chain of command for military operations like the ongoing one against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon established U.S. Cyber Command four years ago for chain-of-command clarity, and its commander, Adm. Michael Rogers, has said he has a close eye on ISIS in cyberspace.

Though a doctrinal hurdle to offensive cyber operations may have been cleared with the release of the joint doctrine, a large bureaucratic hurdle apparently remains. The military wants to dominate cyberspace, but enlisting the help of civilian agencies could present a huge challenge.

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) recently identified a lack of cross-agency coordination as a barrier to more offensive cyber operations. No doctrine from the Joint Chiefs can solve that problem.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.