The information revolution is leading to the rise of network forms of organization, with unusual implications for how societies are organized and conflicts are conducted. “Netwar” is an emerging consequence. The term refers to societal conflict and crime, short of war, in which the antagonists are organized more as sprawling “leaderless” networks than as tight-knit hierarchies. Many terrorists, criminals, fundamentalists, and ethno-nationalists are developing netwar capabilities. A new generation of revolutionaries and militant radicals is also emerging, with new doctrines, strategies, and technologies that support their reliance on network forms of organization. Netwar may be the dominant mode of societal conflict in the 21st century. These conclusions are implied by the evolution of societies, according to a framework presented in this RAND study. The emergence of netwar raises the need to rethink strategy and doctrine to conduct counternetwar. Traditional notions of war and low-intensity conflict as a sequential process based on massing, maneuvering, and fighting will likely prove inadequate to cope with nonlinear, swarm-like, information-age conflicts in which societal and military elements are closely intermingled.
The United States, our allies, and our partners face a spectrum of challenges, including violent transnational extremist networks, hostile states armed with weapons of mass destruction, rising regional powers, emerging space and cyber threats, natural and pandemic disasters, and a growing competition for resources. The Department of Defense must respond to these challenges while anticipating and preparing for those of tomorrow. We must balance strategic risk across our responses, making the best use of the tools at hand within the U.S. Government and among our international partners. To succeed, we must harness and integrate all aspects of national power and work closely with a wide range of allies, friends and partners. We cannot prevail if we act alone.
As noted in the 2006 QDR, state actors no longer have a monopoly over the catastrophic use of violence. Small groups or individuals can harness chemical, biological, or even crude radiological or nuclear devices to cause extensive damage and harm. Similarly, they can attack vulnerable points in cyberspace and disrupt commerce and daily life in the United States, causing economic damage, compromising sensitive information and materials, and interrupting critical services such as power and information networks. National security and domestic resources may be at risk, and the Department must help respond to protect lives and national assets. The Department will continue to be both bulwark and active protector in these areas. Yet, in the long run the Department of Defense is neither the best source of resources and capabilities nor the appropriate authority to shoulder these tasks. The comparative advantage, and applicable authorities, for action reside elsewhere in the U.S. Government, at other levels of government, in the private sector, and with partner nations. DoD should expect and plan to play a key supporting role in an interagency effort to combat these threats, and to help develop new capacities and capabilities, while protecting its own vulnerabilities.
In the contemporary strategic environment, the challenge is one of deterring or dissuading a range of potential adversaries from taking a variety of actions against the U.S. and our allies and interests. These adversaries could be states or non-state actors; they could use nuclear, conventional, or unconventional weapons; and they could exploit terrorism, electronic, cyber and other forms of warfare. Economic interdependence and the growth of global communications further complicate the situation. Not only do they blur the types of threats, they also exacerbate sensitivity to the effects of attacks and in some cases make it more difficult to attribute or trace them. Finally, the number of potential adversaries, the breadth of their capabilities, and the need to design approaches to deterrence for each, create new challenges.
An underlying assumption in our understanding of the strategic environment is that the predominant near-term challenges to the United States will come from state and non-state actors using irregular and catastrophic capabilities. Although our advanced space and cyber-space assets give us unparalleled advantages on the traditional battlefield, they also entail vulnerabilities.
China is developing technologies to disrupt our traditional advantages. Examples include development of anti-satellite capabilities and cyber warfare. Other actors, particularly non-state actors, are developing asymmetric tactics, techniques, and procedures that seek to avoid situations where our advantages come into play.
The Weaponry and Strategies of Digital Conflict and Cyber War, Version 3, covering Cyber Warfare, Cyber Terrorism, Cyber Tradecraft, Cyber Activism and offensive, defensive actions and intelligence collection.
Cyber warfare, cyber terrorism, cyber espionage and cyber crime are all growing threats. The 2012 Version 3 of the Cyber Commander’s eHandbook provides the insight needed to understand the new world of cyber warfare, as well as defines the tools and techniques for offensive and defensive cyber action, and provide cyber intelligence needed to understand the strategies behind building a dynamic and relevant cyber warfare capability.
AFDD 3-12 is the US Air Force’s foundational doctrine publication for Air Force operations in, through, and from the cyberspace domain. It defines Cyberspace Superiority and speaks to US Air Force support of maintaining Cyberspace Superiority, a common military function.
“Today, we live in a globally-networked society that is increasingly dependent upon cyberspace access and security. Our ability to gain and maintain superiority in cyberspace has become essential to our ability to deliver global reach, power, and vigilance. As an integral member of the joint warfighting team, the Air Force is committed to growing, sustaining, and presenting highly skilled and well-equipped forces to joint force commanders who can deliver decisive effects in, from, and through cyberspace, while assuring our mission against an asymmetric cyber threat.
Freedom of action in the cyberspace domain enables our command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. Our modern defenses, industrial base, and global commerce, as well as that of our nation’s enemies, depend on free use of land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace. Leverage in cyberspace affords influence and control across all other domains. This leverage increases our forces’ access, speed, reach, stealth, and precision.
Controlling the portions of cyberspace integral to our mission is a fundamental prerequisite to effective operations across the range of military operations. While we appreciate the power that cyber-enabled capabilities add, we also maintain a healthy respect for the asymmetric power that cyberspace affords our adversaries. We must maintain a constant commitment to educate, train, and equip our Airman to prevail in the contested domain of cyberspace.
In the past decade, technological advances have provided the means to generate decisive and magnified effects in domains that traditionally could only be achieved via kinetic means. We must continually adapt our operating concepts to leverage emerging cyberspace capabilities to ensure the Air Force maintains the decisive advantage over our adversaries.”
MAURICE H. FORSYTH
Major General, USAF
Commander, LeMay Center for Doctrine
Development and Education
This book argues that Network Centric Warfare (NCW) influences how developed militaries operate in the same fashion that an operating system influences the development of computer software.
It examines three inter-related issues: the overwhelming military power of the United States; the growing influence of NCW on military thinking; and the centrality of coalition operations in modern military endeavours. Irrespective of terrorist threats and local insurgencies, the present international structure is remarkably stable – none of the major powers seeks to alter the system from its present liberal character, as demonstrated by the lack of a military response to US military primacy. This primacy privileges the American military doctrine and thus the importance of NCW, which promises a future of rapid, precise, and highly efficient operations, but also a future predicated on the ‘digitization’ of the battle space. Participation in future American-led military endeavours will require coalition partners to be networked: ‘interoperability’ will therefore be a key consideration of a partner’s strategic worth.
Network Centric Warfare and Coalition Operations will be of great interest to students of strategic studies, international security, US foreign policy and international relations in general.