Triggering the New Forever War, in Cyberspace

U.S. Army Cyber Command (CYBERCOM). (source: U.S. Army)

U.S. Army Cyber Command (CYBERCOM). (source: U.S. Army)

June 1, 2018 | Source: The Cipher Brief, thecipherbrief.com, 1 April 2018, Jason Healey

"...the first shots of the next actual war will likely be fired in cyberspace and likely with devastating effect."
~Gen. Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army


The United States is in the midst of the most resounding policy shift on cyber conflict, one with profound implications for national security and the future of the internet. The just-released U.S. Cyber Command “vision” accurately diagnoses the current state of cyber conflict and outlines an appropriate new operational model for the command: since cyber forces are in “persistent engagement” with one another, U.S. Cyber Command must dive into the fight, actively contesting adversaries farther forward and with more agility and operational partnerships.

The vision, however, ignores many of the risks and how to best address them. Most importantly, the vision does not even recognize the risk that more active defense – in systems and networks in other, potentially friendly nations – persistently, year after year, might not work and significantly increases the chances and consequences of miscalculations and mistakes. Even if they are stabilizing, such actions may be incompatible with the larger U.S. goals of an open and free Internet.

Understanding and dealing with these risks will be a process which will not be completed in weeks or months, but, as with nuclear weapons, over years and decades. After all, this fight will not just be “persistent” but “permanent.”

The article continues on to cover:

  • The Idea of Persistent Engagement
  • Operating in a World of Persistent Engagement
  • Understanding Persistent Engagement
  • The Right Vision for Policy Makers and Commanders
  • Interconnected Concerns & Dynamics in an Era of Persistent Engagement
  • The Forever War -a Domain of Persistent Engagement Between Militaries

For more information on the DOD Cyber Commands, see: