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Familiar Refrain Regarding Cyberspace

Nothing against the General, but there are some fundamental flaws here:

Uncle Sam is looking for a few good computer hackers.

The U.S. military needs a two-edged cyber capability that can not only defend its .mil and .smil domains from outside attacks but, if necessary, launch cyber attacks against intruders. To do that, the individual services need to recruit and train more cyber-qualified personnel, Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton, chief the U.S. Strategic Command, said today.

The military is dependent on its .mil and .smil domains for everything from e-mail exchanges to employment of its nuclear arsenal. StratCom’s vast portfolio includes operating and defending those domains.

For starters, every one of the general's predecessors going back more than a decade has said the same thing. The fact that this refrain is still repeated is a not-so-subtle indication that a long-standing need is not being met. We can have a side-bar on the inherent difficulties associated with trying to recruit people with "'l33t skillz" into the military if you like, but that's almost beside the point.

Secondly, there is this prevailing assumption that we can achieve "dominance" in cyberspace like we have in meat-space. Yet, to the best of my knowledge, no one has demonstrated that the monstrous power of any hierarchical or military force can withstand an onslaught from a distributed cadre of otherwise undisciplined geeks. This is not building a weapon for a fight that will never come; it's building a Mark I when the other side is armed with AT4s. Who is talking survivability, resilience, alternate channels? Post-EMP blast – or errant backhoe – the nation's best cyber warriors are very under-trained Infantry.

Finally, while there is no fixing the military assignment system, it would be exceedingly helpful if the Pentagon could keep flag officers in this domain on station longer than 2-3 years without damage to their careers. This talking-points recycling shows the folly of treating this area of emphasis like any military discipline. The number of people at this level who get it is small and we've been lucky recently. This is an area where a real visionary and "risk" taker can accelerate meaningful change and head off expensive, disastrous mistakes.