Time for Nation to Create Cyberspace Doctrine, Military Thinkers Say

By Stew Magnuson

First, there was the Monroe Doctrine, which was designed to keep European powers out of Latin America. Later, the Truman Doctrine, or Doctrine of Containment, sought to halt the global expansion of the Soviet Union’s brand of Communism.

A group of retired military and intelligence officials believe that now is the time for the nation to write a “cyber doctrine,” which is needed to deter network attacks on the homeland. 

“The fact is, the government works well, or at least works better, when there is a doctrine that is governing where we’re going. And without it, we tend to get into situations that we wish we hadn’t,” said Tim Sample, vice president and manager of special programs at the Battelle Memorial Institute.

Battelle and the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies are spearheading an effort to prod the government into creating a doctrine to guide it in the rapidly changing, relatively new world of cyberwarfare. They have produced a collection of essays, “#CyberDoc No Borders — No Boundaries: National Doctrine for the Cyber Era,” in an effort to get the ball rolling.

“We are simultaneously the most advanced and the most vulnerable country when we consider our reliance on cybertechnologies,” Sample said. “And today if you look around, we have scads of strategies, policies, authorities and ideas that are working separately without a common basic framework.”

Chairman and CEO of the Potomac Institute Michael Swetnam said “Doctrine is more a statement of what we believe, the principles by which we’re going to base our actions on.”
It is not the two institutes’ goal to prescribe what they think the doctrine should be, rather it is to spark the debate. The government needs a “prime directive,” from which policies, plans, and procedures can flow, Swetnam said.

The experts made their case in December, only a week after Congress failed to pass legislation designed to increase government and private sector cooperation and information sharing on threats they are seeing.

Ronald Marks, president of Intelligence Enterprises LLC, said the founding fathers tasked the government with “the common defense and to promote the general welfare of the United States.”

The problem was that the Internet grew mostly in the private sector, with little security built in. Since its creation, it has gone from a novelty to something “useful,” but is now on par with a public utility — it is essential infrastructure that needs to be protected in order for daily life to function normally.

“We haven’t quite come to grips as a government as to how to deal with this issue,” he added.

Jamie Barnett, a retired Navy rear admiral and former Federal Communications Commission official, said he learned at the FCC that the threat is more insidious than intruders attempting to break into networks. Hackers are making their way into the telecommunications supply chain and corrupting hardware and software.

“Nobody in government has the authority to do what we need to do with regard to the supply chain,” said Barnett, who is now vice president for national security policy at the Potomac Institute.

He proposed a “U.S. Department of Communications and Cyberspace,” which could be created without growing government.

Retired Ambassador David Smith, director of the Potomac Institute Cyber Center, said a new doctrine is needed to send signals to friends and foes alike.

Having a strong deterrence doctrine in place makes some people nervous, he admitted.
“We’re a country that deters with nuclear weapons, for one thing. So let’s grow up here,” he said.

To do otherwise would leave the nation open “to be poked constantly by others with the pointy end of the stick,” Smith added.

Sample said, “the fact is that the government works best, in our view, when it actually has a doctrine that leads it forward. Without one, we tend to lurch from crisis to crisis.”

Despite the secretive nature of the nation’s nuclear weapons program in the 1940s, the debate over nuclear doctrine then was carried out openly in public. Academics, the public and numerous other stakeholders discussed the implications in newspaper articles and other forums. And that needs to be the case today, Sample said.

“The debate does need to be open. It needs to include scientists, academicians, cyberpractitioners, industry, government and individual citizens. Today the internal debate that’s going on within government and the formulation of policy is largely done in secret.”

Photo Credit: iStockphoto

Topics: Cybersecurity, Homeland Security, DHS Policy

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