Elder: Disputes hinder net-centric efforts

A senior cyber official at the Network Centric Warfare 2009 Conference was Vice Adm. Carl Mauney’s U.S. Strategic Command colleague, Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Elder. The morning keynoter, Elder, urged a new look at a critical, often-overlooked means of defending against emerging cyber threats: ending intramural disputes.

Elder said one of the greatest impediments to efficient cyber warfighting is cyber professionals themselves. “In the user community, communities of action, we have to realize that we are our own greatest enemy in terms of managing the structure,” he said. He sees a fight among three large bureaucracies over who should control cyberspace:

  • The communications community, which deals with how the Defense Department establishes physical networks and IP-based systems and how it secures them.
  • The intelligence community, which is probably the biggest user of the cyberwar capability. They are concerned that anything DOD does to put controls on this from a standpoint of security or defense will make it more difficult to do their job of collecting information from people.
  • The operational community, which should control cyberwar capabilities but are not inclined to do so.

“[That is] quite frankly why I try to make the point to people that this is about networks – it’s not about hierarchies," he said. Only by adjusting institutional thinking to recognize this core reality," Elder said, “can we take network-centric warfare to the next level.”

In perhaps his bluntest takeaway, he admonishes cyber warriors in all sectors, service branches, and industries and nations, “We focus on systems and forget why we’re doing something in the first place.”

About the Author

David Walsh is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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