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Brandishing Our Air, Space, and Cyber Swords; Recommendations for Deterrence and Beyond
Posted Tuesday, December 05, 2017


Lt Col Mark Reith, Director of the Center for Cyberspace Research and assistant professor of Computer Science at AFIT, was one of two Schriever Essay Award Winners for his paper titled "Brandishing Our Air, Space, and Cyber Swords; Recommendations for Deterrence and Beyond" published in the Air & Space Power Journal, Volume 31 Issue 4, Winter 2017. The full article can be read on pages 103-114 here. Below is an excerpt from the paper.

The United States has arrived at a historic crossroads for space and cyber. For decades, space and cyber have been treated as neutral territory or part of a global commons, but the rise of competitors and the commoditizing of technology within these domains have drastically changed the calculus of strategic deterrence. One road takes the United States down the path of massive and time-intensive investments into hardened and resilient systems with no guarantee that next-generation technology will be any more resistant to crafty attackers than the last.

Another road takes the United States down the path of multidomain offensive capabilities to create multiple dilemmas that overwhelm and hold the adversary at risk, but the efficacy of this approach across a range of actors is unknown. Yet just beyond the technical horizon, we face the implications of science fiction in motion as new technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and weaponized lasers are developed and fielded against a disturbing backdrop of world events.1 Consider the Russian-Ukrainian cyber conflict playing out across the fabric of society, including utilities, mass media, and finance, and all while the international community fails to establish intervention redlines as malware spills beyond the borders of the conflict.2

"Strategic deterrence in the 21st century is much bigger than nuclear deterrence was in the 20th century. The US military is still "catching up" to this new deterrence reality and having a robust discussion on what deterrence means in today's global threat landscape."
-Gen John Hyten, USAF
Commander, US Strategic Command

"Conflict may occur along the spectrum at any point, in varying degrees of intensity, with more than one adversary, and in multiple domains. At all phases. . . our planning and operations are designed to deter and develop "off ramps" to de-escalate the conflict. . . while dissuading our adversaries from considering the use of cyber attacks, counterspace activities, or nuclear weapons."

-Adm Cecil D. Haney, USN
Former Commander, US Strategic Command

Furthermore, ponder North Korea's offset strategy to hold conventional American forces at risk with nuclear weapons while employing asymmetrical tools with a clear intent and resolve to challenge US hegemony.3 As we grapple with this dynamic environment, we find ourselves at the precipice of the next revolution in military affairs, and our next investments will heavily influence our future options.

This article examines how the nation could better prepare to deter aggressive action in space and cyberspace, and if necessary, prevail should deterrence fail. The key themes throughout this article include a strong need for space and cyber situational awareness, the need for an international attribution and escalation framework, and a national investment in space and cyber education, along with an updated national strategy and military doctrine. Although related, this article focuses on deterrence and avoids the topic of cyber coercion.

The rest of the paper can be read here.