Tug of (Cyber) War

NSA, DoD Feud Over Info-Warfare Doctrine

Defense officials say they expect President Clinton to resolve an interagency dispute that is delaying plans for a new national security doctrine designed to deal with a post-Cold War world wired by commercial television, communications and satellite networks.

Clinton's decision is expected by September, and is necessary because the Pentagon, the Department of State, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency are arguing over which should lead the development of the new doctrine, say defense sources.

The secretive National Security Agency is pressing for a leading role in the Pentagon's emerging plans for information-based war, touting its expertise in electronic eavesdropping and computer security, say sources. The high-tech agency is based at Fort Meade, Md., and is charged with eavesdropping on information networks and with the task of developing technology to protect the U.S. government's classified networks.

No decision has been made on the information warfare responsibilities of the various agencies, said Maj. Gen. Ken Minihan, commander of the Air Force's Air Intelligence Agency and its Information Warfare Center, based in San Antonio, Texas.

The allocation of responsibilities is "the single most important decision [in shaping the doctrine, and which] ultimately becomes a decision the President would adjudicate,' said Minihan. A presidential decision may be made by September, he said.

Minihan declined to discuss the inter-agency debate over the future of the doctrine.

Stakes in this fight over the doctrine include the prestige and extra money that will flow to the agency that wins the lead role in the emerging plans.

Among the options put forward are granting the leading role to the Pentagon, the NSA or to the National Security Council. The council, based in the White House, is charged with coordinating U.S. national security policy, and is chaired by Anthony Lake.

One argument made in favor of granting the leading role to the security council is the need for close coordination between the President's office, the Pentagon, the State Department, civil police agencies, intelligence agencies, and commercial telecommunications firms, say sources.

Because of its technical expertise, the NSA must play a vital support role, but should not determine policy and plans, said one source. Strategists say the doctrine is far broader than the NSA's charter, meaning that the agency covers eavesdropping and security.

Pentagon strategists call the emerging doctrine information-based war, arguing that victory will go to the leaders that best shape the creation and understanding of information, rather than to those with the most sophisticated tanks, aircraft and warships.

The doctrine for information-based war is largely classified and is only in its early stages. Several Pentagon documents outline the strategy, including a classified directive issued in December 1992 by Pentagon civilians and policymakers, and a May 1993 document by the Joint Chiefs of Staff titled "Command and Control Warfare."

The doctrine has attracted some interest from Congress. A June 6 statement from the office of Newt Gingrich, the Republican chief whip in the House, said the emerging doctrine was to modern warfare what the internal combustion engine and radio were to the German Blitzkrieg.

According to Pentagon strategists, the spread of information technology is changing the nature of warfare. The technologies include personal computers, hand-held television cameras, and cruise missiles guided by the Pentagon's highly accurate Global Positioning System. The deployment of planned global cellular telephone networks, hard-to-break cryptography and civilian-controlled spy satellites are also spurring the changes.

For example, both the United States and its enemies can gather information on military technology and war plans via computer networks. During a war, aggressors may try to use skilled hackers and software viruses to disrupt the civil and military telecommunications networks vital to military mobilization and logistics plans.

Similarly, both the United States and its enemies will increase efforts to manipulate public opinion through televised propaganda, maintain secrecy by blinding spy satellites, and deceive enemy leaders by manipulating journalists, according to the emerging doctrine; enemy wartime planning would be wrecked by destroying military command and control networks.

Already, all three U.S. military services are preparing manuals for information warfare. The U.S. Air Force has established the Information Warfare Center and the Army is mulling plans to create an information warfare center. Also, the Navy plans to establish an information warfare command at Fort Meade, according to John Davis, chief scientist for the Navy's Pentagon-based Space and Electronic Warfare directorate.

According to an Army official, the military's internal debate over the future of information-based warfare is hampered by fear of revealing U.S. weaknesses to information-warfare attacks, and by concern over the political sensitivity of some issues. For example, military officials will have to work with political leaders and journalists to broadcast the U.S. government's official policies, hide secrets from an enemy while giving U.S. citizens a broad view of military operations and government decision-making.

Also, government officials have to balance controversial proposals to protect U.S. government and as well as civil communications networks from attacks, while allowing a free flow of information and minimal secrecy.

The problem of network security illustrates the need for careful interagency coordination, say information-warfare specialists. Each government agency is responsible for protecting its own unclassified and classified networks, while private companies are responsible for protecting their own commercial networks. The NSA is responsible for developing technology and procedures to help protect classified networks, while Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology, based in Gaithersburg, Md., is responsible for developing technology and procedures to help protect unclassified networks.

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