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Cyber: A Flexible Deterrent Option

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Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States

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The recognition of cyberspace as the fifth domain for warfare introduces similar challenges that early warfighters and planners faced, planning and executing military operations in the land, sea, air, and space domains. Though it is considered a man-made domain, the cyber domain is more complex with no established norm of behaviors and without borders. If history is a teacher then the United States military will find ways to gain cyber superiority, although critics would argue that there is no such thing as cyber superiority. Additionally the US military continues to struggle with its thinking and approach as to how to wield cyber power in and through what is now considered a contested domain. Some of the issues facing commanders and cyber operators include obtaining legal authority to pursue an adversary across sovereign borders, division of labor among statutory titles, agencies and departments within the US government, balancing intelligence gain and loss, and the difficulty of attribution. The first step to overcoming the operational challenges is to recognize that planning and executing cyber operations should not be any different than planning and executing operations in the air, land, and maritime domains.While deterrence has always been part of the US military strategy cyber as a flexible deterrent option is not currently in the tool kit for the Joint Forces Commanders to draw from. Although USSTRATCOM may have the expertise and experience regarding deterrence, 24th Air Force should pursue and develop a cyber force competent in the art of cyber deterrence and be the lead to create a cyber operational plan to ensure full spectrum cyber operations in support of the JFCs. More importantly 24 AF should adopt and apply the Single Integrated Operational Plan, the United States general plan for nuclear war from 1961 to 2003, and the Joint Operation Planning Process as the model to use in planning and employing cyber power in support of JFCs.

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Technical Report

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DOI: 10.21236/AD1018825




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