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U.S. Mil @ Info Domain

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The U.S. Military is taking the first steps in the Information Domain.
How far will it go?
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Posted in "Society, Tech" at May 15th, 2008

    In the very beginning we conquered the Ground and Water, then we did the same with the Air and Space. We also created artificial domains, such as, supercarriers, complex aircrafts, knowledge (commonly referred as the Internet) that opened up spaces and capabilities that have never been known before. And it’s always until the military comes in and becomes operational in every of these domains: it enters the domain, acquires the legitimacy to use force, creates weapons and force tasks. As I quoted M. V. Smith previously — wherever mankind goes, weapons follow. That is, whatever we create, the military will start operating there sooner or later.

    In February, 2008 the U.S. Army introduced its new Field Manual for Operations or “FM 3-0″ for short. What makes it exceptional is that the U.S. military is becoming operational in the domain of knowledge or the so called Information Domain. The whole 7th chapter of this manual is dedicated to “Information Superiority”. The last time we saw that was obviously the conquest of the Space Domain. This is when it happens again. And we’re not just talking about opportunities or theoretical possibilities to do that. It’s actually happening now and here (wherever you are). The U.S. Military is entering the Information Domain.

    The Army will tell you that it is part of Full spectrum operations. That is absolutely correct. The term “Full spectrum operations” embodies at least two concepts of military thinking. One is that for almost all the time we know the Army was driven by the rationale to control everything. It’s true now again. No changes here. What is more, the contemporary situation of diversified threats causes the Army to transform from inside, because we can no longer grasp and categorize the threats that are outside. So the Army almost blindly is creating forces that can literally defeat everything and everywhere in the form of unified, joint forces driven by objective operations and linked together with a unified command and control.

    I have argued previously that evolution of military action in a brand new domain can be summarized in three steps: (1) engage/enter, (2) utilize, gain superiority over your adversary and (3) control and secure your position. For example, in the Space Domain the U.S. with Donald Rumsfeld has progressed to the third stage and now is trying to secure its position in Space. Same thinking rules apply when we consider the Information Domain. To become fully operational in this domain the U.S. Military has to engage, gain superiority, secure the position — done.

    The U.S. Military has outlined five tasks so far in this domain. These are: (1) information engagement, (2) command and control warfare, (3) information protection, (4) operations security, and (5) military deception (FM 3-0, 7-6). Take a closer look at these 5 tasks. Traditionally we know that military tasks can be divided into 2 categories: offensive and defensive. Now they have at least 9 categories, but let’s stick to the traditional point of view. Information protection, operations security and military deception can be seen as defensive tasks, information engagement does not belong to any of these categories and only 1 task is offensive, that is, command and control warfare. Let’s explore this one in more detail.

    Command and Control Warfare

    The manual states that “Command and control warfare is the integrated use of physical attack, electronic warfare, and computer network operations, supported by intelligence, to degrade, destroy, and exploit the adversary’s command and control system or to deny information to it” (FM 3-0, 7-6). This really sounds like an offensive task: attack, degrade, disrupt, destroy, exploit, control, warfare, etc — doesn’t it?

    What’s really interesting about this type of task is that it’s going to be an absolutely different way the Army will interact with the enemy. Firstly, there won’t be a clear line between lethal and non-lethal actions. Secondly, the military will have to put a lot of effort in synchronizing physical attack, electronic warfare and computer network operations. This is a wide open question or even a challenge, if you will.

    The manual does not enlarge the picture of these 3 ops of the Command and control warfare, but let me try to define elements of the Information Domain here in more detail:

    1. Information platforms or elements responsive to physical destruction, such as: energy sources, electronics, stations, hardware, etc.
    2. Telecommunication systems: cellphone lines, radio, television signals, wireless, etc.
    3. The Internet: networks, streams, web services, web sites, databases, etc.
    4. The Economics: transactions, banking, purchases, etc.
    5. The Knowledge: news, messaging, reports, hearings, ideas, etc.

    Now let me put these elements into force (in terms of offense):

    1. Attack and destroy information platforms, energy and electronic lines.
    2. Disrupt and degrade telecommunication systems.
    3. Disrupt, exploit and take control over adversary’s internet networks and sites.
    4. Disrupt financial operations, freeze bank account.
    5. Disrupt or stop the flow and expansion of adversary’s news and ideas.

    In short this is what it’s like to exercise Command and control warfare in order to gain information superiority. Some of these objectives have been known from before. But I want to stress again that it’s no longer an exclusive case, rather a full-time project. Using the intelligence the U.S. military will attack, disrupt and take control or destroy Information Domain elements in order to gain information superiority.

    Particularly, I find it important to know that the military will be operating in the Internet (bullet no. 3). Again, most military operations in the Internet are defensive so far. Nevertheless the manual foresees military “actions taken through the use of computer networks to disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy information resident in computers and computer networks, or the computers and networks themselves” (FM 3-0, 7-6).

    Weaponization of the Information Domain

    Let’s talk ultimate. It begs the question whether and what type of “weapons” there will be in the Information Domain. There is actually very little information on this issue in the manual. The only hint I was able to find is a reference to electromagnetic weapons most probably for disruption of telecommunication systems. One can also think that in order to attack and destroy physical objects the military will be using existing weapons and lethal force — that’s probably true. These kind of weapons would be used for objectives 1 and 2 and could be called Electronic warfare. What about other objectives?

    There is no official title for them. But we could call them Computer network warfare. This type of warfare would include computer network operations and actions in the Internet as described above. Interestingly enough the military is not ready yet to use word warfare here, so they use operations instead and call them Computer network operations. I guess the reason for that is simply because it’s very difficult to think of and develop weapons that could “disrupt, exploit and take control over adversary’s internet networks and sites”. By weapons I mean not a simple domain shutdown as performed by the FBI, but a forceful data attack over the internet by a software-based weapon or strategy.

    As far as the the ground ops, you can not shut it down, make it disappear, you have to take control over it. Same definition should be applied to military ops in the Internet. To destroy the enemy means not to disconnect it, but to take over its data, its territory, if you will. You can not leave the enemy somewhere with its weapons. A full exercise of force requires that the adversary would be harmless even if it could access the particular domain.

    CNN has recently reported that a U.S. Air Force colonel is suggesting the U.S. military build its own “botnet” as cyberspace weapon. This is exactly what the U.S. military will be looking into. In the same article Alan Paller, director of research for the SANS Institute, is cited saying that it “would be easier for the military to lean on Internet providers to shut off traffic from hostile computers than to adopt the “carpet bombing” approach Williamson advocates”. I say, you got that wrong, Mr. A. Paller. The military is looking for offensive ways to operate in the Information domain. The military is looking for actual cyber-weapons. So it’s not just about solutions, it’s also the bigger picture of operating in the Information Domain.

    The U.S. military might be thinking that it will be enough to destroy information platforms to avoid Computer network warfare. That’s a legitimate way to consider it. However, I would suggest giving thought to these notions of Computer network warfare.

    U.S. Information Domain Forces?

    Obviously, each domain requires special forces in the military. Now they have US Army, US NAVY, US Air Force. The Space domain will be handled by the Air Force. But what about the Information Domain?

    I would guess that a special branch in the US Army might be created. I actually think it’s time for that, because thus far these tasks have been assigned to existing commands, but these tasks require more explicit insight, attention to detail, etc.

    Also we have to remember that the whole U.S. military is performing unification from the inside and this process is driven by the objective force — a goal to have a very precise, optimized, synchronized command and control — the idea taken from the rationale of economical thinking. Though this idea is under controversy, I will just say that I would see this new branch not only as a part and participant of this process, but also as a huge contributor in moving forwards to the objective force.

    Conclusions and Suggestions

    The U.S. Military is at the first stage of its military operations in the Information Domain — it’s still week. But the fact itself that the U.S. Military is entering the Information Domain which includes the Internet is enough to make this maneuver exceptional. However, the Army has to see the other two steps ahead of it.

    For that reason the U.S. Military requires more offensive tasks in the Information Domain. In the next Field Manual of Military Operations the U.S. Army should expand the section that deals with Command and control warfare in the Information Domain and add more offensive tasks to the general list.

    The Pentagon is going to need a lot of professional and good quality intelligence to deal with these sort of things. The Army still has to define the term “intelligence” very carefully. It’s not enough to say that we’re going to use intelligence for all these tasks. It is necessary to analyze thoroughly what kind of intelligence and roles are required.

    This is a wide open discussion. It’ll be really interesting to see it evolve. If you got any comments, please leave a reply.