The new U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) vision and the Department of Defense Cyber Strategy embody a fundamental reorientation in strategic thinking.
With the publication of these documents, as well as 2017 National Security Strategy and the 2018 National Defense Strategy, there is a general conception among experts that the U.S. has, for the first time, articulated a strategy that truly appreciates the unique “symptoms” of cyberspace. The documents recognize that there is a new structural set of dynamics associated with the new domain of cyberspace that has incentivized a new approach to power competition—in particular, that hostile or adversarial behavior below the threshold of armed attack could nevertheless be strategically meaningful (that is, change the balance of power).
Yet most cyber experts have also argued that the ‘medicine’ prescribed by the Defense Department and USCYBERCOM should be further scrutinized. Indeed, the side effects of the strategy of “persistent engagement” and “defense forward” are still ill-understood. As we have argued elsewhere, a United States that is more powerful in cyberspace does not necessarily mean one that is more stable or secure. More research is required to better understand adversarial adaptive capacity and escalation dynamics.
An Outcome-Based Analysis of U.S. Cyber Strategy of Persistence & Defense Forward: