Cyber warfare oracle reveals stark vision

Cyber warfare oracle reveals stark vision
Cyber warfare oracle reveals stark vision 

By John Andrew Prime
October 7, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C.  What cyberspace and cyberwarfare are might take years 
for the layman to understand, but Lani Kass painted a stark and clear 
picture of warfare's future in less than an hour at the Air Force 
Association Air and Space Conference.

Her talk, on the closing day of the international gathering in the 
nation's capital in late September, could be a signal of the future for 
the Air Force and Barksdale Air Force Base.

Kass, a former major in the Israeli Defense forces who moved to this 
country in the 1980s and became a citizen, is one of the major voices 
whispering in the ears of the Air Force chief of staff and, by extension 
the Joint Chiefs and, possibly, even higher up the chain of command.

An instructor at National War College, she taught Military Thought and 
the Essence of War and served as director of Studies of Warning, 
Surprise and Deception. As such, she was a mentor to the level of Air 
Force officers who over the next two decades will be the generals 
leading branches and commands.

But in the years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, she has become one 
of the leading minds creating the vision of cyberspace as a war-fighting 
domain, which could have consequences for Barksdale, which is home to 
the provisional, or forming, Air Force Cyber Command. The base already 
is home to 8th Air Force and its mirror entity in the cyber world, Cyber 
Strike, with Lt. Gen. Robert J. Elder Jr. at its helm. Kass also is a 
senior mentor to Operation Checkmate, which plans for future war needs 
and contingencies.

Kass, who spoke with a thick accent and cut a dramatic, almost 
theatrical figure as she strode back and forth across the symposium 
stage, captured the crowd's attention with blunt talk.

"Anybody talks about cyberspace as if it was exclusively computers 
misses the point," she said.

Cyberspace covers almost everything electrical or electromechanical, 
from the simplest direct-current applications to the slickest, fastest 
space-age GPS gadgets off to things that haven't been invented. The 
scale of invention and development over the decades "means the further 
... you go on the electromagnetic spectrum ... the energy moves faster 
and it's greater. ... the higher the scale of effects you can deliver."

The history of modern warfare has been one of adding domains in which 
people can fight and lose, be the controllers or the controlled, she 
said. For decades, the traditional domains were land and sea. In the 
20th century, air and space were added, along with the recognition that 
if you control air and space, you can dictate to a great degree the 
control of land and sea.

But it has only been in the past few years that cyberspace, the realm 
that links the four war domains, has been recognized as an area of 
combat and control in its own right, she said.

"We have been using the electromagnetic spectrum longer than we have 
been using air and space," she said, noting that the telegraph, one of 
the most bedrock aspects of cyberspace, was developed around the time of 
the Civil War.

What makes cyber different from the other realms, she said, is that it 
doesn't take a lot to fight in it. You don't have to build or buy 
expensive ships, airplanes, tanks or spacecraft. All you need is a 
laptop or a link to the Internet.

"For the first time, perhaps ever, we are dealing with a domain where 
the level of investment is disproportionate to the kind of effects you 
can deliver," she said.

That's important since people half a world away can do things now that 
can limit or eliminate the control of land, air, sea and space that make 
protections of modern freedoms possible, she said.

"If you don't dominate cyber, you cannot dominate in air, or in space, 
you cannot dominate on land or at sea," she said. "Quite frankly, if 
you're a developed country, you cannot conduct your daily way of life. 
Your life essentially comes to a screeching halt."

The afternoon before Kass' talk, Cyber Strike commander Lt. Gen. Robert 
J. Elder spoke of the efforts already under way at Barksdale to make the 
cyber vision reality.

That involves determining and gathering the people to do the work, 
determining the new career and training avenues that need to be forged, 
assessing systems and software for the new missions, establishing 
command and control procedures and forging alliances with academia and 
industry, such as the $100 million Cyber Innovation Center being created 
north of Barksdale.

"We are starting to practice our capabilities," Elder said. "We are 
flying and fighting in cyberspace today."

As to the question of where Cyber Command will be headquartered, Kass 
didn't have a final answer.

"This is not something that's bricks and mortar and is going to be all 
in one place," she told The Times after her talk. "The whole country is 
going to benefit from it. It's distributed. Think of it like the 
development of the railroad. It's going to span the United States. The 

Copyright The Times

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