By Bob Brewin
March 22, 2007
The best defense against cyberattacks on U.S. military, civil and
commercial networks is to go on the offensive, said Marine Gen. James
Cartwright, commander of the Strategic Command (Stratcom), said March 21
in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.
History teaches us that a purely defensive posture poses significant
risks, Cartwright told the committee. He added that if we apply the
principle of warfare to the cyberdomain, as we do to sea, air and land,
we realize the defense of the nation is better served by capabilities
enabling us to take the fight to our adversaries, when necessary, to
deter actions detrimental to our interests.
Cartwright said U.S. adversaries in cyberspace include other countries,
terrorists and criminals who operate behind what he described as
technical, legal and international screens, and he said that if we are
to take the fight to our adversaries, we will need Congress help finding
solutions to penetrate these screens.
Stratcom is the lead command within the Defense Department and it is
charged with planning and directing cyberspace defense. It also manages
the U.S. nuclear deterrent forces.
The Stratcom commander told the committee that the United States is
under widespread, daily attacks in cyberspace. He added that the
country lacks dominance in the cyberdomain and that it could become
increasingly vulnerable if we do not fundamentally change how we view
this battle space.
Cartwright said U.S. cyberspace adversaries have potentially different
motives financial, political or military and threaten the freedom to
embrace the opportunity offered by a globally connected, flattened
He added that the magnitude of cost in terms of dollars dedicated to
cyberdefense measures, lost intellectual capital and fraud that results
from cyberattacks cannot be overestimated, making these attacks a matter
of great national interest.
Stratcom continues to make progress in developing information operations
capabilities into core military capabilities, Cartwright said, providing
joint force commanders with the capability to gain and maintain
information advantage over U.S. cyberspace adversaries.
The Air Force, which recently established a Cyber Command, views
cyberspace as a warfighting domain, said Lt. Gen. Robert Elder Jr.,
commander of the 8th Air Force and JFCC-Global Strike and Integration.
"This particular domain is contested," Elder said, speaking at the FOSE
trade show in Washington, D.C., March 21. "In some cases it's a
criminal, in some cases it's a nation-state."
Either way, the Air Force's goal, as with air and space, is cyberspace
superiority, he said. To achieve that goal, the service plans to
"integrate all of our instruments of national power," leveraging
diplomatic, economics and military options, Elder said.
Elder did not detail plans for going on the offensive. But when asked
about it, he said, "We will probably do some of that, by the way."
Cartwright did not identify nations behind cyberattacks against the
United States, but last month, officials at the Naval Network Warfare
Command said Chinese hackers are constantly waging cyberwarfare against
Stratcom is also concerned with attacks against space-based
communications and navigation systems, such as the Global Positioning
System, Cartwright said at the committee hearing. Intentional
interference with space-based intelligence, navigation and
communications satellites, while not routine, now occurs with some
regularity, Cartwright said.
He said U.S. adversaries are contesting the country's ability to freely
access space-based assets, such as GPS and other satellites, which are
essential to U.S. strategic and tactical operations.
Although the United States has conventional and nuclear capability
unmatched in the world, Cartwright told the committee that enemies are
positioning themselves to avoid our strengths and exploit our
vulnerabilities, which he said include space-based systems and networked
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