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The Brave New World of Cyberspace Operations

  • Published
  • By Colonel Gary D. Brown
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Who would have thought using a thumb drive could send a ripple effect across the world?

For most of us, we thought DoD's ban on flash drives in 2008 was inconvenient. But as Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn discussed in a Foreign Affairs article, the issue went far beyond inconvenience. We discovered a thumb drive had been loaded with malware; it was just waiting for a service member to plug it into the wrong place. One small act opened a huge hole in our network defense. It was as if we escorted an adversary into a sensitive area, then left him with free reign to wander around. After it was discovered, JFCC-NW and JTF-GNO, the precursor commands to USCYBERCOM, launched into action. Operation Buckshot Yankee had to deal with countering the adversary's access and defending against future threats.

At the time, you may not have known or cared about the importance of these types of risks. I can assure you that the folks at the newly created U.S. Cyber Command care. We're in a new era of military operations--perhaps we're even witnessing a revolution in military affairs. Cyber capabilities are being integrated into military operations on all fronts.

In May 2010, just over a year after it was first directed by the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) was established. On 31 Oct 10, USCYBERCOM achieved full operational capability (FOC). Achieving FOC means USCYBERCOM is able to direct the operations and defense of specified DoD computer networks, and prepare to conduct full-spectrum military cyberspace operations when directed.

USCYBERCOM is a sub-unified command of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). Subordinate to USCYBERCOM are cyber elements from all the services: Army Forces Cyber Command, Fleet Cyber Command, 24th Air Force (AFCYBER) and Marine Forces Cyber Command (MARFORCYBER). Three of the Service Elements are located in the National Capital Region, the sole exception being 24th Air Force, which is located at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas.

The USCYBERCOM legal office consists of the Staff Judge Advocate, Deputy SJA (Army), Deputy for Operations, four Operations Law attorneys (two Air Force, one Navy and one Army) and a Navy Yeoman (administrative specialist). The MARFORCYBER SJA works in the legal office as well, and the Coast Guard Cyber Command's SJA is scheduled to begin working from the office in 2011. As a result, USCYBERCOM has, perhaps, the most joint legal office in DoD! The office is organized to allow every JAG to work issues involving cyber operations, international law and intelligence law. The more traditional functions are parceled out across the legal office, too. We provide the full panoply of legal services - what would a legal office be without practicing fundraiser law!

Precision guided munitions are sometimes considered a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) - a fundamental change in the way war is fought. Some of us were on active duty during that RMA. Cyber is another, and will be the only one most JAGs will witness first hand. The international and operations law questions associated with cyber warfare are endlessly fascinating. I've had many great assignments in my career, but never one with issues so interesting the JAGs talked about them with the enthusiasm of a hobby, day after day. That IS the case at USCYBERCOM, and I feel incredibly fortunate to be leading a talented, joint team of military lawyers helping to shape future US operations.

The importance of cyber to US military operations will continue to grow rapidly into the future. I encourage members of the legal team interested in operatio