U.S. military working to integrate cyber weapons into commanders’ arsenals

U.S. military commanders around the world are discussing how to integrate cyber weapons with all the other tools in their arsenals, according to the chief of the Navy’s cyber forces. Doing this will give battlefield commanders the ability to choose which weapon they want to use to achieve a desired effect. "Whether we do that ...

U.S. Navy
U.S. Navy
U.S. Navy

U.S. military commanders around the world are discussing how to integrate cyber weapons with all the other tools in their arsenals, according to the chief of the Navy's cyber forces.

Doing this will give battlefield commanders the ability to choose which weapon they want to use to achieve a desired effect.

"Whether we do that through the spectrum [via electronic warfare], we do that through the network [via cyber] or we do that through something kinetic [bullets and bombs], what we want to be able to do is be able to tee up to the commander, multiple options," said Vice Admiral Michael Rogers during the Navy League's annual Sea Air Space conference just outside Washington today. Then, "the commander can make the decision about what's the best tool to use. . . . I don't get any pushback on that idea at all."

U.S. military commanders around the world are discussing how to integrate cyber weapons with all the other tools in their arsenals, according to the chief of the Navy’s cyber forces.

Doing this will give battlefield commanders the ability to choose which weapon they want to use to achieve a desired effect.

"Whether we do that through the spectrum [via electronic warfare], we do that through the network [via cyber] or we do that through something kinetic [bullets and bombs], what we want to be able to do is be able to tee up to the commander, multiple options," said Vice Admiral Michael Rogers during the Navy League’s annual Sea Air Space conference just outside Washington today. Then, "the commander can make the decision about what’s the best tool to use. . . . I don’t get any pushback on that idea at all."

"If we think we’re going to do cyber off in some closet somewhere we have totally missed the boat on this thing," Rogers noted.

At the same time, the lines between traditional electronic warfare — radar jamming, electronic eaves dropping, etc. — and cyber warfare are containing to blur, at least in the U.S. Navy.

"I see those lines blurring increasingly There is great convergence between the spectrum [EW] and the cyber world at the moment which I think just offers great opportunities, as a SIGINT [signals intelligence] kind of guy by background, I just lick my lips at the opportunities that I see out there in that arena," said Rogers.

While Rogers didn’t elaborate on the type of combined cyber-electronic warfare missions he envisions, a fellow admiral noted that the Pentagon is looking at non-cyber ways of shutting down an enemy’s ability to fight without firing a shot. (Remember, cyber-philes often point out that cyber weapons can cripple a nation without a single missile being launched.)

"Cyberspace can be an enabler but there’s [other] non-kinetic ways to disadvantage the enemy in cyberspace that don’t require a cyber activity; [electronic warfare] capability, and other things like that," said Rear Admiral Michael Hewitt, deputy director of the special programs cross functional team on the Joint Staff, during the Navy League’s annual Sea Air Space conference just outside Washington today.

Click here to read an example of a type of non-cyber electronic weapon that’s capable of shutting down an enemy’s electronics systems without blowing anything up.

John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.

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