Feb 14 2008
Really wish I could link to the article but the file keeps getting hammered. At the risk of going to open-source prison by posting the whole darn thing…The Cyber Corps:
A Proposal for a Different Military Service
John R. Surdu and Gregory J. Conti
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science United States Military Academy, West Point, NY
Joint Vision 2020 consists of dedicated individuals and innovative organizations transforming the joint force for the 21st Century to achieve full spectrum dominance: persuasive in peace, decisive in war and preeminent in any form of conflict1
The time has come for the United States to create a new service, distinct from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. This Cyber Corps would form a new branch of the Department of Defense with its own distinct, and appropriate, culture and possess the capability to fight and win our nation’s information wars while working in concert with the other branches of the armed forces. A close look at the missions of each military service illustrates the lack of a consolidated, national level, information warfare program:
Army – fight and win our nations wars.
Navy – project the power and influence of the nation across the seas to foreign
waters and shores in both peace and war.
Air Force – defend the United States and protect its interests through aerospace power.
Marines – serve as the premier expeditionary force.
Coast Guard- serve as a military, multi-mission, maritime service including regulatory, law-enforcement, humanitarian and emergency-response duties.6
The intelligence community has historically participated in information warfare activities, but primarily from a defensive posture. Again, an examination of the nation’s primary intelligence organizations shows a similar gap:
CIA – Provide foreign intelligence related to national security; conduct counterintelligence activities, special activities, and other functions related to foreign intelligence and national security.
FBI – Uphold the law through the investigation of violations of federal criminal law; protect the United States from foreign intelligence and terrorist activities; provide leadership and law enforcement assistance to federal, state, local, and international agencies.
DIA – Provide military intelligence to warfighters, defense policymakers and force planners.
NSA – Coordinate, direct, and perform highly specialized activities to protect U.S. information systems and produce foreign intelligence information. (emphasis added)
Of all the national intelligence organizations, the National Security Agency has the closest mission to the proposed Cyber Corps, but lacks the offensive charter. This can be seen
by examining how the resources of the National Security Agency are organized in support of it’s two primary objectives:
Information Assurance – provides the solutions, products and services, and conducts defensive information operations, to achieve information assurance for information infrastructures critical to U.S. national security interests.
Foreign Signals Intelligence – provides for an effective, unified organization and control of all the foreign signals collection and processing activities of the United States. 11
The intelligence community lacks an organization with a clear offensive charter and while each military service has a small information warfare capability, but there is no overarching organization that can tie together these disparate efforts.
The current structure of today’s armed forces is based on a different warfighting paradigm that is ill suited for respecting, cultivating and employing technical expertise. A new model is required to break from the mold of tradition in order to best provide the organization, people and skills required for offensive information operations. While this capability cannot legally be employed without permission from the National Command Authority, it is imperative that the United States possess this capability in order to better defend our critical national information infrastructure from potential adversaries and to more effectively wage war as part of joint and multi-national operations. 12
A three-hundred-pound, seventeen-year-old who lives off Twinkies and Code Red would be an anathema in the Marine Corps. With the right set of technical skills this same seventeen-year-old might be the information warfare equivalent of Chesty Puller.
The cyber threat to our nation is clear. Potential actors include hackers, hactivists, industrial spies, organized crime groups, terrorists and national governments. The most serious threat comes from nation states. Countries like China, Cuba and Russia possess the ability to wage information war against the United States. In particular, China is developing very aggressive information attack capabilities. Other countries have responded to this threat: Taiwan established an Information Warfare force, in 2001, to counter potential Chinese cyber-attacks.13 The force will eventually be about battalion sized and be independent of any military service. 14 The South Korean government is planning on establishing specialist units for cyber warfare.15 The Japanese Defence Agency is also rumored to be establishing a cyber-warfare organization.16
A New Culture
There is a substantial body of work discussing the motivation of computer hackers. The primary motivations include: name recognition; intellectual challenge; and the use of bigger, better, faster technology. This has been supported by first-hand discussions with subject matter experts associated with the Honeynet Project and at meeting places such as the Blackhat Briefings and DEFCON. Clearly these three factors could be achieved by information warriors working for the United States. Many aspects of the cultures of the other, military services would act as disincentives to potential information warriors: uniforms, tight haircuts, early morning physical training, saluting, medals, rigid discipline, sleeping in the mud etc. While these are necessary aspects of uniformed warriors, they are not necessary in information warriors. A three-hundred-pound, seventeen-year-old who lives off Twinkies and Code Red would be anathema in the Marine Corps. With the right set of technical skills, this same seventeen-year-old might be the information warfare equivalent of Chesty Puller.
While it is easy to identify aspects of military culture that would be disincentives to aspiring “hackers,” determining what new culture would be needed to attract and retain them is more difficult. It is unlikely that medals would have the same impact on information warriors that they have on traditional warriors. The Cyber Corps needs to be free to experiment with different incentive schemes without the burden of figuring out how to make the new culture fit into an existing military culture. Similarly, the Cyber Corps needs to be free to experiment with different organizations.
“Black hats” recruit their apprentices at an early age through hacker chat rooms and boards. Over time the more experienced “hackers” cultivate the skills of the younger ones. We assert that the Cyber Corps could use the same paradigm. Potential information warriors could be identified early and begin association with the white hat community while their morale and ethical beliefs are still forming. Seventeen-year-olds are permitted to join the Army while still in high school. Using a similar model, high quality candidates could go to Cyber Corps basic training the summer before their senior year, and then serve a year in the Cyber Corps reserves before going on to college. During basic training they would be taught basic skills, laced heavily with education about the legal and ethical implications of “hacking.” After completing training, they would be supplied with a powerful computer and sent back home. One weekend a month they would meet with their mentor and receive additional training. Under the mentorship of proven information warriors, the skills of these young recruits would be developed throughout college, in a program not unlike the Reserve Officer Training Corps. While not all “hackers” will be excited about the prospect of being a “hacker team leader,” this clearly occurs in the hacker community. Contrast this scenario with that of Ehud Tenenbaum, the Israeli hacker who enlisted the help of two young Californian computer enthusiasts to break into Pentagon computer systems in 2001.
Experiments and Exercises
Initially it seems like a good idea to distribute the Cyber Corps across the United States. Quite possibly these different cells could concentrate on different potential enemies, in much the same manner that Special Forces groups concentrate on different geographical areas of the world. In order to be most effective, these information warriors might well need to attend Department of Defense language training. There will be no need for bases, post exchanges, government housing, or the other support requirements of the uniformed services. The information warfare units would begin by attacking each other. These intra Cyber Corps attacks would server the same purposes as field exercises do for the Army: train units, assess their readiness, and identify needed improvements.
To be successful, the Cyber Corps will need to integrate smoothly with other military units of the Department of Defense. Eventually, we think there will be a Cyber Corps officer on division and above staffs. Those Cyber Corp officers serving in these “joint” billets would advise the commander of capabilities and limitations. These officers would assist in planning in much the same way that a division’s engineer brigade commander and division artillery commander assist in the planning and execution of division operations. The Cyber Corps officers would act as liaison back to their units. At some point, we think that the commander will just think of the Cyber Corp as another asset. If the commander needs to eliminate an enemy command and control node, he could do it with a bomb, a commando raid, aircraft dropping carbon filaments over the communications lines, jamming, or executing an information warfare attack.
The Cyber Corps would need a diverse set of skills that could be achieved through close cooperation with academia, the uniformed services and corporate America: basic and advanced technical training, network security, information warfare rules, regulations and law, language training, psychological operations, intelligence gathering and analysis.
The organization of the Department of Defense does not provide a cohesive and organized information warfare effort. Each service and intelligence organization possesses its own fragmented attempt at developing an information warfare capability. In the services, with rare exceptions, an individual is committing career suicide by becoming too technical or specializing in information assurance. The addition of a new military service, the Cyber Corps, would consolidate these fragmented efforts and allow technical expertise to thrive. The Cyber Corps is a solution that will provide a robust organization capable of recruiting, training and retaining the best technical expertise, divorced from cultural baggage and ready to fight and win our nation’s information wars.
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