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Joint Staff Releases Information Operations Doctrine

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 10, 1999 – The United States military is under almost daily attack. DoD routinely detects 80 to 100 "cyberincidents" on computer systems each day.

The department is experiencing sophisticated computer challenges now; one major attack is under investigation. DoD officials will not comment further on the attack because it is a law enforcement and intelligence matter.

Few people can deny the world is in the midst of an Information Revolution. Information technology is changing the face of warfare just as the Industrial Revolution did on 19th century battlefields.

DoD has not been caught napping. Rather, the department has been laying the groundwork for military operations in the cyberworld. It is in the form of a military doctrine known as Joint Publication 3-13, Joint Doctrine for Information Operations. Published in October 1998 under the signature of Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it provides warfighters with the fundamental principles they need to engage an enemy whose weapon of choice is bytes, not bullets.

"Information operations" brings to mind a group of computer hackers hunched over keyboards attacking enemy command and control networks. It is that and much more, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, deputy director of Information Operations on the Joint Staff in the Pentagon.

"Thousands of service members across the military are involved in information operations," he said during a recent Pentagon interview. Information operations, according to Joint Pub 3-13, "are actions taken to affect adversary information and information systems while defending one's own information and information systems."

Wright said information operations include the use of psychological operations, deception, jamming, and computer network attack and defense. It also includes operations security and electronic warfare.

"Information operations cover the full spectrum of conflict from peace to crisis to war back to peace," he said. "Information operations builds upon traditional military operations, starting with command, control, computer countermeasures. It's still very easily tied to traditional military operations to degrade the command and control or the information capability of an adversary while fully protecting our own."

Wright said potential enemies' "information abilities" points to a new form of warfare that could threaten the United States. "The threat of cyberwarfare is real," he said. "Our potential enemies tend to be multispectral. They're either unpredictable or they're unknown. Clearly -- whether terrorist or more traditional -- they can be dangerous."

The threat of cyberwar directed against U.S. infrastructure concerns Pentagon planners. "We haven't seen severe impacts on our military capability," Wright said. "We have seen enough intrusion via telecommunications links or computer network attack, that it certainly makes us watchful. Computer network attack is a real threat."

Fueling this is the growth in commercial industry, he said. "Those elements of industrial power transition into combat capability. You can compare [information operations] to the first use of the airplane. The airplane was commercially focused and it eventually moved into a combat weapon," he said.

The first mission is defense. Service members at all levels can help by practicing good operational security, he said. "We've always done opsec, whether it was how we protect our phone conversations or now, how we protect our computers," Wright said. "Opsec is always a very fundamental element of information operations and protecting our command and control."

DoD recently formed Joint Task Force Computer Network Defense. The task force, based at the Defense Information Systems Agency here, specifically protects DoD command and control information systems from outside attack -- whether it's a teen-age hacker or the government of another nation.

The U.S. military is "not out there committed to a capability take down another country" through information operations, Wright said. "We will do as we've always done: look for opportunities in a combat environment to degrade the enemy's command and control.

"But more than that, even prior to a combat environment, how do we shape the battle and battlefield? That's important also. It is essential that we are ready to do that and take advantage of opportunities."

DoD is integrating information operations into exercises and it is part of contingency plans, Wright said. The U.S. military is also working with allies to ensure joint and combined operations consider information operations.

He said the release of the joint doctrine is not revolutionary, but evolutionary. "We've always had these concerns and we always worked these," he said. "What we still have to do is to understand what the information explosion really means. We've got to stay up to speed with what private industry is doing and up to speed on what the adversary is doing and who that adversary might be."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageBrig. Gen. Bruce A. Wright, USAF (Photo by TSgt Lee Roberts, USAF)  
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