Cyberpower and National Security

  • Published

Cyberpower and National Security edited by Franklin D. Kramer, Stuart H. Starr, and Larry K. Wentz. Potomac Books, Inc., 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 because until recently, service and joint doctrines did not articulate that conflicts can be waged in the cyber domain or that cyberpower was a necessary part of the arsenal of national power. The increasing volume and severity of attacks on our national and military cyber infrastructure dramatically changed that view. Cyberspace has now taken a prominent role as a coequal, fifth domain of warfare in the military.

With this move has come a shift in organizational structures and priorities. The secretary of defense decided to form a subunified combatant command, the US Cyber Command, under the 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 other similar operations, senior decision makers came to realize that the future of our military and our nation hinges on securing cyberspace and developing cyber power. A prominent think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, released a report in the winter of 2008 outlining what it believed were the pertinent issues that the new president needed to address with regard to cyberspace. The new administration also commissioned its own study to develop a road map for national cyberspace priorities.

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

Cyberpower and National Security attempts to fill the need for more strategic dialog related to cyberspace and cyber power so more leaders, strategists, and practitioners can learn and hopefully contribute to the discussions.

The study grew from the Department of Defense’s 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review when the department realized that it lacked the necessary intellectual tools to assess cyber-power issues. The department tasked the National Defense University to articulate cyber power in a way that helps frame issues related to national security. The result of this study was a compendium of 24 articles authored by academics, members of think tanks, government cyber experts, and industry players who participated in and led teams which 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 and to help the readers to gain a better understanding of cyberspace even if their knowledge level about the domain was minimal.

Despite the range of topics covered by this edited volume, a common message does emerge. That message is that the cyber domain is complex and evolving and that it demands additional serious study. No single volume, including Cyberpower and National Security, can completely fill this void. The topics give readers a glimpse of the myriad issues which are just under the surface of this new domain. These issues play significant roles in national security and military strategy. But the roles are rarely discussed in detail for strategists and senior leaders to understand how to deal with them.

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

Col Rizwan Ali, USAF

United States 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."