Cyber threat calls for flexibility in command model, general says

CIO William Lord discusses cyberwarfare, technological currency and blurring of boundaries.

Technology's dark side has created a new battlefield in cyberspace, and that brings new considerations to the way military commands should be structured, according to Lt. Gen. William Lord, chief of warfighting integration and chief information officer of the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force.

Lord, speaking today to a meeting of the AFCEA Northern Virginia chapter, said the threat is already present. “The Air Force is heavily engaged in cyber operations. We’ve been swimming in the cyber domain waters for 25 years. We’re operating in a hostile and contested domain,” he said.

To be successful in such a domain, the U.S. Cyber Command and any other military force that deals with the cyber threat must develop a command structure that can be flexible, Lord said. Although the structure should be based on a traditional command model, it needs to incorporate some non-traditional elements, he said. “We need to operate without heavy restrictions. There are enormous restrictions in the offensive domain. The biggest problem isn’t the enemy, the biggest problem is us."

Cyber superiority is required for operational freedom of action, he said. "We have to understand that cyberspace can be shaped, but it cannot be dominated – because we don’t know most of it. It’s a commercial enterprise, not a military enterprise," he added.

To an extent, the Air Force and other military organizations have to feel their way through unfamilair territory, he said. "We have no tactics, techniques, procedures or checklists,” he said, stressing the need for the discipline and vigor of the traditional command model.

Technology brings many advantages to the military, but it's also blurring the boundaries between military services. Joint forces, not individual branches, will increasingly fight battles. "We will never fight alone by service again," he said.

 He called for a strong, centralized approach to network management. He also highlighted the need for efficiency and effectiveness to attract young people who represent future leadership.

“We need a technologically advanced force that [young people] want to join,” Lord said. “And we have to avoid [buying] yesterday’s technologies tomorrow, but unfortunately we’re guilty of this. We need to acquire capabilities at the speed of need.”