Cyber threat calls for flexibility in command model, general says

Military must stay current on technology, draw in bright new recurits

Technology's dark side has created a new battlefield in cyberspace, and that brings new considerations to the way military commands should be structured, according to Lt. Gen. William Lord, chief of warfighting integration and chief information officer of the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force.

Lord, speaking today to a meeting of the AFCEA Northern Virginia chapter, said the threat is already present. “The Air Force is heavily engaged in cyber operations. We’ve been swimming in the cyber domain waters for 25 years. We’re operating in a hostile and contested domain,” he said.

To be successful in such a domain, the U.S. Cyber Command and any other military force that deals with the cyber threat must develop a command structure that can be flexible, Lord said. Although the structure should be based on a traditional command model, it needs to incorporate some non-traditional elements, he said. “We need to operate without heavy restrictions. There are enormous restrictions in the offensive domain. The biggest problem isn’t the enemy, the biggest problem is us."

Cyber superiority is required for operational freedom of action, he said. "We have to understand that cyberspace can be shaped, but it cannot be dominated – because we don’t know most of it. It’s a commercial enterprise, not a military enterprise," he added.

To an extent, the Air Force and other military organizations have to feel their way through unfamilair territory, he said. "We have no tactics, techniques, procedures or checklists,” he said, stressing the need for the discipline and vigor of the traditional command model.

Technology brings many advantages to the military, but it's also blurring the boundaries between military services. Joint forces, not individual branches, will increasingly fight battles. "We will never fight alone by service again," he said.

 He called for a strong, centralized approach to network management. He also highlighted the need for efficiency and effectiveness to attract young people who represent future leadership.

“We need a technologically advanced force that [young people] want to join,” Lord said. “And we have to avoid [buying] yesterday’s technologies tomorrow, but unfortunately we’re guilty of this. We need to acquire capabilities at the speed of need.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

Reader Comments

Fri, Sep 25, 2009

I also agree that the biggest problem is us. It would seem we swing primarily from one end of the pendulum to the other. It is almost unacceptably common to encounter an article such as this suggesting we can't differentiate between the technology that will allow us to do what we want while not allowing us to do what we don't want to do. The other end of the pendulum comprises the individuals who decide rules and regulations are over-rated and decide to ignore whatever rigidity we were able to implement. This is a complex situation requiring multiple successfully integrated solutions.

Tue, Sep 22, 2009 Tom Keeley

General Lord is correct in stating that the biggest problem is “us”. The bureaucracy in the United States is such that there are so many individuals and organizations that advertise themselves as “the responsible decision-makers”, yet there is nobody around that has the time or inclination to learn about the potential of new technology that exists today. Compsim invented a new way to process information (Knowledge Enhanced Electronic Logic – KEEL Technology) such that systems can pursue goals autonomously without following a rigorous set of rules. Flexible judgment and reasoning can be given to devices and computerized systems. So whether you are talking about adaptive network security, autonomous weapons, M&S, or developing adaptive military tactics and strategy, KEEL can play a major role. It can be easily understood with just a few hours of training, and it can be installed in the smallest microprocessors. It can be used to support human operations or operate autonomously. While numerous government solicitations highlight the need for such a solution, there is no travel budget available to watch it in action and learn what it can do NOW. The “experts” in all branches of the military have highlighted the need. They just don’t seem to have a clue that it exists. It seems it is much easier to complain, than learn and do.

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