Tuesday, April 28, 2009


There is a veritable frenzy of cyber command activity. The New York Times reported that the President will constitute a new Command, likely to be headed by LTG Alexander, Director of NSA. The new Command will have responsibility for “attack and defense strategies in Cyberspace warfare” according to the Times. (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/28/us/28cyber.html?_r=1&hp)

Formation of the command is part of an extensive effort orchestrated by President Obama. By forming the command the President hopes to consolidate all cyber military efforts. This military consolidation is complementary to the new direction on civilian side created as a result of the “60 Day Review” completed for the White House on 17 April by acting Senior Director of Cybersecurity for the NSC, Melissa Hathaway (see http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/AdvisorsToConductImmediateCyberSecurityReview/)

Information technology (IT), especially as interconnected by the Internet, is the electronic lifeblood of developed countries. The critical IT infrastructure and key resources of nations are inviting targets because their damage or destruction would go to the nation’s very will to fight.

To say that doctrine with respect to cyber attacks is nascent would be kind. The fact is that the doctrine is either extremely highly classified or just plain doesn’t exist. Legal and political issues cloud a nation’s ability to respond in kind to a cyber attack. Notwithstanding a variety of computer ‘war games’, the US government’s use of cyber attack is not without precedent.

The NY Times article talks about hacking into Al Qaeda computers to alter “information that drove them into American gun sights”.

While I applaud the President’s efforts and can heartily concur that cyber attack and defense need to be placed under a single command – where does that leave PSYOP?

I have argued for several years that Computer Network Operations (CNO) can be an effective PSYOP weapon. It is also clear that the Internet has become a wide open medium for PSYOP messages whether websites, e-mail, SMS or even Twitters. However, there is no clarity nor comparable unity of command with regard to cyber PSYOP.

At the very least the new command should have a robust PSYOP element, likely headed by a Colonel. This element should be linked to the Joint Staff, SOCOM, ASOC and other service PSYOP Commands to insure that there is uniformity of messaging and that there is a mechanism in place to deconflict cyber and PSYOP activities for maximum reinforcing effect.

Another rub is the nature of cyber activities undertaken by the Combatant Commanders. Each is running their own website and perhaps other activities such as Blogs, Social networking pages, etc. Somehow there needs to be a central inventory of all these activities and a ‘Cyber PSYOP Operations Center’ (CPOC) that can provide a global view of these activities much as corporate marketing is responsible for providing a global picture of corporate marketing activities.

A Cyber Command is a good start, but let’s hope PSYOP is not left out in the cold.

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