The modern military has a broad spectrum of operations. We have the ability to wage war on land, sea, air, in space and now via the Internet. The weaponry and strategies accompanying this spectrum was expanded with the introduction of cyber weapons into the modern day arsenal. From humanitarian assistance and peace keeping operations to unlimited warfare using nuclear weapons, cyber attacks span the entire operational spectrum. The utility of offensive cyber weapons provides conflict commanders with options that are unavailable with conventional and nuclear weapons.
That being said, they do have a significant drawback: reliability. Given the unique capabilities of cyber weapons, current doctrinal development must depart from thinking of warfare in purely linear terms in order to incorporate cyber capabilities into current military strategies.
State and non-state actors increasingly have access to advanced cyber weapons technology that makes them more dangerous by giving them global reach. Cyber weapons are easily acquired, inexpensive and strike at the speed of light with little warning. This new class of weapons provide somewhat of a leveling effect across state and non-state adversaries as well as activist and terrorist groups, organized crime and even lone actors. Current detection capabilities can only be described as limited to moderate given several attacks have gone undetected for years. However, cyber weapons are not the panacea that many believe. There are shortcomings to this new class of weapons. When launching a cyber weapon (other than DDoS) it is difficult to calculate just when the cyber attack will be effective, if it is effective at all. It is equally as difficult to control the spread of some forms of cyber attack techniques as well.
The status quo is acceptable. The military institution has received a fair amount of criticism for their thinking that has be characterized as preparing to fight the last war. Today's strategic threat environment is unpredictable. Our threat environment can be accurately characterized as highly complex, rapidly developing and initiated at a moment’s notice. The mindset, doctrines and training programs that were primarily designed to address conflict with Warsaw Pact forces must be radically changed. Therefore, our defense forces and strategies must be able to provide a broad range of viable military capabilities available globally at short notice. The position of the United States and how we achieve broad spectrum influence requires significant examination done within the context of acts of cyber aggression. The U.S. must rapidly develop integrated operational strategies that leverage our digital advantages that will provide support to virtually all aspects of our offensive, defensive and intelligence collection capabilities. The scale and sophistication of the recent cyber attacks on Google (and others) was a watershed event and should be seen as a wake-up call. Measuring the effective integration of cyber operations into virtually every aspect of modern military doctrine and continuous updating our doctrine and strategy as cyber weapons rapidly evolve, must become a routine part of senior command activities. Failure to do so could have disastrous consequences.