Pentagon wants to go on the offensive in cyberspace

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is currently formulating a legal framework to help guide future military campaigns in cyberspace.

According to Air Force General Robert Kehler, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, deliberations on both doctrine and legal aspects of the framework are still “ongoing” and remain incomplete.

Kehler, who maintains overall responsibility for the U.S. Cyber Command, said the military was examining “what kinds of options would we want to be able to offer” policymakers for going on the offensive in cyberspace.

“Is active defense really offense in cyberspace? I would argue that it really is not. It does not have to be, for sure. But those are the issues that we are trying to work our way through,” Kehler explained in a statement quoted by Reuters.

“Cyberspace [is a place] through which we’ll conduct military activity, similar to every other domain… I believe the that the United States still has an edge. I can’t describe how great the edge is. I can tell you in some places I think we have quite an edge in cyberspace.” 

Although Kehler declined to elaborate as to the substance of the above-mentioned debate, he did suggest that traditional electronic warfare – which targets radio towers and units – would probably not be categorized as cyberwarfare.

“I think you could say no. We’ve done electronic warfare for years and years and years and years.”

It should be noted that the Obama administration recently held an intensive debate about whether or not to launch a cyber offensive against Libya before kicking off airstrikes against the Qaddafi regime.

According to the New York Times, the digital campaign would have disrupted and even disabled the Libyan air-defense systems which threatened allied warplanes.

But a number of officials and military officers shot down the plan after expressing concern that it might set a precedent for other countries, such as Russia or China, to execute similar offensives.

As such, the Pentagon ultimately decided to deploy conventional aircraft, cruise missiles and drones to destroy Libyan air-defense missiles and radar units.