One of the reasons the United States needs a Cyber Force (and needed one before we needed a Space Force) is because we need a recognizable service academy for that part of defense. It’s no different, really, from branching the Air Force away from the Army – new technology has opened a new domain of warfare. With that new domain come new challenges, new areas needing devoted study, new legal requirements, and a new need to be taken seriously.
■ One way to lend credibility to a sector is to devote research and academic discipline to it. Thomas Jefferson signed the legislation establishing West Point
in 1802; the Naval Academy
didn’t come to fruition until the mid-1800s. In between, James Madison asked Congress in 1810
for “the establishment of an additional [military] academy at the seat of Government or elsewhere”, justifying his request thus: “Even among nations whose large standing armies and frequent wars afford every other opportunity of instruction[,] these establishments are found to be indispensable for the due attainment of the branches of military science which require a regular course of study and experiment.”
■ It is exactly because the cyber domain is complicated – not only from a technological standpoint, but from legal and strategic viewpoints as well – that the United States really ought to have a distinct defense branch commissioned explicitly to protect the country’s security interests in that realm. To borrow from Madison’s words, we need to regularize both “study and experiment”. It has long been noted that one of the issues that hamstrings our cyber defense is that it’s really hard for the Pentagon to compete
with the private sector for computing talent. A different kind of workforce approach
is needed – so different from the incumbent service branches that it has to stand on its own.
■ A stand-alone Cyber Force would encourage the cultivation of a more comprehensive way of looking at cyber defense – complete with theories of conflict, rules of engagement, approaches to recruitment, skill development, and even a distinct “look and feel”. And perhaps even more than in the other branches, the need for a respected, research-focused, state-of-the-art training academy would be a distinctive tool for a Cyber Force to advance the national defense.
■ Any sound analysis of the future would have to conclude that the high-technology domains are going to play a more significant role in the conflicts to come than they have in the past. And just as code-breaking was a profoundly powerful weapon in WWII
, so will the technological advantages we can accrue in cyber warfare. We shouldn’t be afraid to put a name and a mission statement on what we know is inevitably going to be needed next.