The U.S. military understands it is already engaged in ongoing “peacetime” cyber conflict against state and nonstate opponents intending to harm the United States and its allies and partners. Various motives drive this conflict, and it takes many different forms, ranging from espionage and theft of intellectual property to what are effectively cyber privateering and piracy.
U.S. Cyber Command (CyberCom) was created as the combatant commander for this conflict in cyberspace and appears to be effective against the most devastating attacks. However, the problem of cyberspace attack extends deeply into the social, technological, and economic infrastructures of modern Western nations. Considering the potential impact, cyber vulnerabilities—most of them self-inflicted—appear almost overwhelming.
1. Martin C. Libicki, Cyberspace in Peace and War (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2016), 1.
2. Chris Demchak, “Achieving Systemic Resilience in a Great Systems Conflict Era,” The Cyber Defense Review 6, no. 2 (Spring 2021), 51–69.
3. This is the basic theme of the fictional novel 2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman and ADM James Stavridis, USN (Ret.) (New York: Penguin Press, 2021).
4. There are proposals for methods of determining whether military aircraft have been hacked. See for example Marcus Weisgerber, “New Tech Aims to Tell Pilots When Their Plane Has Been Hacked,” Defense One, 4 October 2019.
5. On a naval context, see Robert C. Rubel, “Mission Command in a Future Naval Combat Environment,” Naval War College Review 71, no. 2 (Spring 2018), 109–122; LCDR Graham Scarbro, USN, “’Go Straight at ‘Em’: Training and Operating with Mission Command,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 145, no. 5 (May 2019); LT Matthew Connor, USN, “Mission Command Is Essential to Mission Success,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 146, no. 4 (April 2020).
For a discussion of mission command in a U.S. Army contest, see COL James D. Sharpe Jr. and LCOL Thomas E. Creviston, USA (Ret.), “Understanding Mission Command,” Army; Donald E. Vandergrift, Adopting Mission Command: Developing Leaders for a Superior Command Culture (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2019). For a Joint Staff view, see Deployable Training Division, Joint Staff J7, Mission Command, 2nd ed., January 2020.
6. For a discussion of mission command and AI, see ADM Scott H. Swift, USN (Ret.), and Antonio P. Siordia, “Mission Command and Speed of Decision,” in Sam J. Tangredi and George Galdorisi, eds, AI at War: How Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning Are Changing Naval Warfare (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2021), 135–149.
7. It must be acknowledged that signal intelligence was aided by the breaking of German naval codes, sometimes allowing the allies to know the planned operational locations in advance.
8. On the 2021 test, see “Russia Disconnects from Internet in Tests as It Bolsters Security-RBC Daily,” Reuters, 22 July 2021; “Russian Tests Way to Disconnect from Worldwide Internet,” Voice of America, 25 July 2021.