This monograph presents the results of a fiscal year 2008 study, “Defining and Implementing Cyber Command and Cyber Warfare.” It discusses the use and limits of power in cyberspace, which has been likened to a medium of potential conflict, much as the air and space domains are. The study was conducted to help clarify and focus attention on the operational realities behind the phrase “fly and fight in cyberspace.”
The basic message is simple: Cyberspace is its own medium with its own rules. Cyberattacks, for instance, are enabled not through the generation of force but by the exploitation of the enemy’s vulnerabilities. Permanent effects are hard to produce. The medium is fraught with ambiguities about who attacked and why, about what they achieved and whether they can do so again. Something that works today may not work tomorrow (indeed, precisely because it did work today). Thus, deterrence and warfighting tenets established in other media do not necessarily translate reliably into cyberspace. Such tenets must be rethought. This monograph is an attempt to start this rethinking.
The research described in this monograph was sponsored by Lt Gen Robert Elder, Jr., Commander, Eighth Air Force (8AF/CC), and Joint Functional Component Commander for Space and Global Strike, United States Strategic Command. The work was conducted within the Force Modernization and Employment Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE. It should be of interest to the decisionmakers and policy researchers associated with cyberwarfare, as well as to the Air Force planning community.