Nearly a half century ago in October 1969, computer programmers at the University of California, Los Angeles used a primitive Department of Defense computer network called ARPANET to send the first messages to computers at Stanford Research Institute. This quiet event, considered by some to be the birth of the internet, ignited a technological movement within the computer and information industries that eventually transformed the world into a globally connected society utterly dependent on instant access to information, yet increasingly vulnerable to network intrusions by those who seek to steal sensitive data or disrupt cyber infrastructure.
This dependence and vulnerability is perhaps most prominent in the U.S. military. The information that moves through our networks empowers our forces in the field, enabling operators to make tactical and operational decisions, often with life-or-death consequences, that affect a strategic outcome. The Joint Force’s ability to collect cues, understand and use big data to make decisions quickly, and then communicate those decisions to our fielded forces is an asymmetric advantage. But it is not a birthright or guaranteed to last. The daily attacks on our networks are increasingly sophisticated. A legion of cyber professionals relentlessly defends our networks from those who wish us ill, but we cannot win cyber defense by having humans react to intrusions at human speed. We must empower machines to monitor and defend the networks at machine speed while providing options for humans to make decisions. Otherwise, we risk giving our opponents maneuvering space in that domain. We still have much work to do in this area.
In addition to human-machine teaming, we need to continue investing in and developing a more effective framework for deterring cyberattacks, attributing intrusions, and managing escalation. Part of the solution lies in how we organize, train, and equip the cyber workforce. The creation of the Department’s 133 cyber mission force teams and the elevation of United States Cyber Command to a unified combatant command are steps in the right direction, as both efforts will enhance the Joint Force’s ability to deny, withstand, or respond to attacks on our systems or supporting infrastructure. Other key elements include sharing information with the Intelligence Community, our allies, and our partners to reduce the anonymity of malicious actors; deconflicting cyberspace operations among the dozens of U.S. cyber organizations and the interagency; and integrating cyber requirements into operational planning and execution. It will take continued investment in our warfighters and the capabilities they employ to maintain our strategic edge in cyberspace. We have no choice; the role of cyberspace in U.S. national security will only continue to grow.
These are just a few of the challenges and opportunities facing the nation in the cyber domain that you will find in this issue of PRISM. The articles by these senior leaders, strategic thinkers, and cyber experts are timely, relevant, and of interest to both professional cyber warriors and what I call pedestrian cyber users—everyone who uses a computer. I encourage you to read each article with a critical eye to discover ways we can improve how we share information, use big data to aid decisionmaking, and defend our networks.
General Paul J. Selva
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff