The New Art of War

By Walter Pincus
Monday, March 3, 2008

If there were any doubts that the United States is preparing for war in space and cyberspace, testimony before the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee last week would have wiped them away.

According to Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, head of U.S. Strategic Command, "our adversaries understand our dependence upon space-based capabilities, and we must be ready to detect, track, characterize, attribute, predict and respond to any threat to our space infrastructure."

Although space threats have received much attention in the past, it was the possibility of cyberspace warfare that was given new emphasis at the hearing.

Chilton described cyberspace as an "emerging war-fighting domain." He said that "potential adversaries recognize the U.S. reliance on . . . [its] use and constantly probe our networks seeking competitive advantage," providing the reasons for developing defensive and offensive systems in this area.

U.S. cyberspace, in Pentagon terms called the Global Information Grid, serves as "a conduit that links human activity and facilitates the exchange of information," Chilton said.

Michael G. Vickers, assistant secretary of defense for special operations, low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities, who also testified, told the panel: "Threats to our computer networks are real and growing," and attacks and attempted intrusions come "on a daily basis."

Strategies and institutions have been created for the war to protect cyberspace. There is, for example, the classified 2006 National Military Strategy for Cyberspace Operations, which concludes that "offensive capabilities in cyberspace offer both the U.S. and our adversaries an opportunity to gain and maintain the initiative."

Strategic Command, working with Joint Chiefs of Staff personnel, is developing contingency plans and carrying out operations that protect the government's computer networks through detection and coordinated counterattacks against intruders. This often involves other Pentagon and interagency elements, according to Chilton.

Capabilities are being developed "to operate, defend, exploit and attack in cyberspace," he said.

Here are a few of the units that Chilton said have been enlisted to prepare for cyberspace battles:

¿ The Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations in Arlington directs operations and defense of the worldwide Defense cybernetwork in real time at strategic, operational and tactical levels. It is involved in fighting, intelligence gathering and conducting normal business.


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