“Security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others” – Thomas Paine, Common Sense (1776)
He’s right. Barack Obama is trying to work above his pay grade.
The issue isn’t the national debt or an unalienable right to life but about safety in the American military’s emergent operational domain.
Cyberspace is among the top challenges – along with terrorism, rogue nations, and ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – confronting the nation today, according to America’s Defense Secretary.
“I have often said that there is a strong likelihood that the next Pearl Harbor that we confront could very well be a cyberattack that cripples our power systems, our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems,” the Defense Secretary says. “This is a real possibility in today’s world.”
National Security Cyberspace Gap
If someone were to ask you about the other operational domains — land, sea, and air (and space) — you may naturally assign primacy for each with the Army, Navy, and Air Force, respectively, with the Marine Corps trained to share time and space in every domain.
But as highlighted in a letter from the bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee to the Defense Secretary, Obama appears to be not only in above his pay grade but also negligent concerning national security in cyberspace.
The continued failure to address and define the policies and legal authorities necessary for the Pentagon to operate in the cyberspace domain remains a significant gap in our national security that must be addressed.
Missing Report on Cyberspace Policy
What motivated the letter signed by the committee’s respective chairman and ranking member – Senators Carl Levin and John McCain – was Obama’s failure to meet a March deadline for a fiscal-year (FY) report to Congress on America’s cyberspace policy. They explained how he’s still failing to address the following findings from the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2011:
- During classified and unclassified testimony before Congress, senior officials of the Department of Defense acknowledged that there is a serious gap between the Nation’s capabilities to conduct offensive and intelligence-gathering operations in cyberspace and the policies and regulations necessary to guide and limit, and provide oversight of, such operations.
- These senior officials also testified to their belief that the Administration should be able to correct the shortfalls in such policies during 2010.
- It is vital for the Department of Defense and the President to ensure that the United States Cyber Command operates under the clearest possible rules of engagement and policy directives to prevent mistakes, avoid setting bad precedents, and enable effective actions and responses in defense of the Nation’s interests in cyberspace.
- It is also vital for the United States to convey to the international community the Nation’s position on deterrence, the exercise of the right of self-defense, acceptable norms of behavior, the responsibilities of sovereign nations, violations of sovereignty, the use of force and acts of war, and other fundamental national security issues associated with cyberspace.
Cyberspace Domain: Operational Imperative
Trying to gloss over his failure to influence action more than four months after failing to meet the congressional deadline, Obama released a muddled document entitled “Department of Defense Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace.”
But Obama’s strategy only adds to a sense that he’s in above his pay grade. Instead of treating cyberspace with a sense of primacy, he delegated responsibility for the domain to a variety of agencies and “components within each branch of the military.”
A warning about such a strategy — made worse by Obama’s rudderless change — was given by the military before he was elected, in a 2008 report from the U.S. Army War College.
Operational environments are war-fighting domains which represent physical expressions where military operations are conducted … Though each service shares time and space in every combat domain, each service jealously covets their respective primary war-fighting domain. This alignment with service and operational environments is clearly defined and accepted in all areas but one, the cyberspace domain.
Root of Cyberspace Strategy
Money highlights the root of Obama’s rudderless strategy in cyberspace, for two reasons.
The first is a matter of primacy in the federal budget, directly related to Obama’s failing fiscal policy. The information technology subsidiary of Government Executive, Nextgov says, “Federal auditors have told Pentagon officials to define ‘cybersecurity’ so the military services adopt the same terminology, and by extension, calculate their cyber spending plans in comparable ways.” It added, “The Pentagon currently is unable to centrally round up information from the services to calculate a single cyber budget estimate.”
The second is typical of every strategy pursued by Obama – purely political. Instead of supporting traditional military primacy through integrity, Obama’s focus on cybersecurity is divided between people who have given him money:
- The first federal chief information officer (CIO) hired by Obama contributed $3,300 to his 2008 presidential campaign.
- The top candidate to replace Obama’s first federal CIO also contributed ($3,050) to his campaign.
- The top candidate was overlooked in favor of the new federal CIO, who contributed a whopping $50,000 to fund Obama’s inauguration celebration and more than $10,000 to Obama and the Democratic party since 2008.
The new federal CIO will continue with Obama’s rudderless strategy to change “the way the federal government manages information technology.” What that means for the military’s potential to defend the nation’s cybersecurity through its traditional strategy for primacy is that the Defense Secretary’s fear about a significant gap in America’s national security will remain for the duration of Obama’s term.
Cybersecurity for Economic Prosperity
“Each service acts in the primacy of an operational environment,” says the U.S. Army War College report. “The Air Force is organized to effect aerospace superiority, the Navy functions to reign supreme on the seas, and the Army dominates the land across the full range of military operations.”
National security demands that the military’s new operational domain of cyberspace be treated with the same successful tradition for primacy.
In the words of a former U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations: “Failing to protect our national security inevitably endangers our economic prosperity.”
Americans can do their part to overcome change in the economy, cyberspace, and every climate by improvising and adapting on the nation’s successful tradition with a 2012 volunteer for president who campaigns to preserve, protect, and defend America’s exceptional tradition with an intuitive understanding of national security.
Collins, John M. Military Strategy : Principles, Practices, and Historical Perspectives (Washington: Brassey’s, 2002).
Charles D. Lutes et al., Toward a Theory of Spacepower : Selected Essays (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 2011).