US Strategic Command

  • Published

Cyberpower and National Security edited by Franklin D. Kramer, Stuart H. Starr, and Larry K. Wentz. Potomac Books, 2009, 642 pp.


Not long ago, cyberspace was viewed as a realm for each service’s tech wizards, relegated to support land, sea, air, and space domains. This was partly due to service and joint doctrines not articulating until recently that conflicts can be waged in the cyber domain or that cyber power is a necessary part of the national power arsenal. The increasing volume and severity of attacks on the national and military cyber infrastructure dramatically changed that view. Cyberspace has now taken a prominent role in the military as a fifth, coequal domain of warfare.

With this recognition has come a shift in organizational structures and priorities. The secretary of defense formed a sub-unified combatant command, US Cyber Command, under US Strategic Command; the Air Force stood up a Numbered Air Force dedicated to cyberspace; and the Navy stood up its own cyber command.

These changes in the military did not happen in a vacuum. As the world, and particularly the United States, has become more dependent on the Internet for commerce, military operations, and so forth, senior decision makers realized that the future of the military and the nation hinges on securing cyberspace and developing cyber power. A prominent think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, released a report in winter 2008 outlining what it believed were the pertinent issues the new president needed to address with regard to cyberspace. The new administration also commissioned its own study to develop a roadmap for national cyberspace priorities.

Despite these prominent organizational moves, the theories, definitions, and deep understanding of this new domain remain a mystery to many military leaders and strategists. The strategic dialog has been hampered by a lack of generalists who completely understand this domain and because much of the discussion about cyberspace and cyber power is shrouded in secrecy by the government and military. Some in academia and the military believe that serious strategic thinking about cyber power is at its infancy, much like airpower theory was during the interwar period.

Cyberpower and National Security attempts to fill the need for more strategic dialog on cyberspace and cyber power so more leaders, strategists, and practitioners can learn and contribute to the discussions. It grew out of the Department of Defense 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review when the DoD realized that it lacked the necessary intellectual tools to assess cyber power issues. The DoD tasked the National Defense University to help articulate cyber power in terms of national security. The result was a compendium of 24 articles authored by academics, think tanks, government cyber experts, and industry players who looked at areas as diverse as fundamental definitions to cyber deterrence theory to international law. The editors of Cyberpower and National Security arranged the articles to help frame the diverse discussion topics as well as to help the reader gain a better understanding of cyberspace, even if their knowledge level of the domain was minimal.

Despite the range of topics, a common message does emerge. That message is that the cyber domain is complex, evolving, and demands additional serious study. No single volume, Cyberpower and National Security included, can hope to completely fill this gap. The articles are intended to give readers a glimpse of the myriad issues which play significant roles in national security and military strategy but are rarely discussed in sufficient detail for strategists and senior leaders to understand how to deal with them effectively.

Cyberpower and National Security is a groundbreaking book because of its depth and breadth and should become a standard volume which many military leaders and strategists will want to read and refer to for years to come. War colleges and civilian universities will also find it helpful to incorporate into their strategy and cyberspace curricula. If this volume serves its intended purpose, some readers will be inspired to investigate the topics further and use it as a launching point for additional studies or discussions.


Col Rizwan Ali, USAF

US Strategic Command

"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."