Battleship Admirals
In Cyberspace

Military Info warriors are complaining that interference from bureaucrats and politicians will not allow them to attack an enemy computer in time of war. The "rules of engagement" for Information Warfare (IW) are currently set at the CIA and NSA to tightly control military forces. These tightened rules have left Pentagon planners with few options other than to bomb enemy computer centers in a war.

"I might have to do some (computer hacker) work ahead of time to find my way in," stated a Defense official in a recent Aviation Week & Space Technology interview. "But, I might be able to take down the IOC (Iraqi defense command center) in Talil using a modem and a keyboard."

"However, I don't want someone (from a national agency) coming in and saying 'You can't do that because it is also a major switch and node for telephone lines to the public sector..'", noted the military official with frustration. "I can bomb (an enemy communications center) and blow it to smithereens. So that's the part that does not make any sense. I can bomb it, but they don't want me to manipulate the ones and zeros."

The reason for this tight control, according to defense officials, is a lack of understanding at the NSA. Pentagon officials charge the NSA has entrenched civilian bureaucrats who are still fighting the Cold War. A retired NSA official stated a heavy loss of NSA employees with military backgrounds has left the agency with technical expertise but virtually no operational military experience. Thus, NSA planners have adopted a conservative approach directed at maintaining security over operational flexibility and providing warfighting capabilities. Military officials also noted the long-standing reluctance for NSA to connect those who pick up the electronic signals from an enemy to those who can destroy the enemy with the bombs and missiles.

In fact, this compartmentalization of intelligence operations away from warfighters has cost US forces in the past. For example, in 1972 North Vietnam was able to overrun defensive positions in South Vietnam because NSA intercepts were not passed on to warfighters until well after the armor units had launched their attack. A more recent example is the SAM (Surface to Air Missile) unit that brought down USAF Capt. O'Grady in the former Yugoslavia was detected by the NSA but the information was not passed on to the USAF.

Under the current rules, military and national intelligence agencies will not work together on offensive computer attacks until AFTER a war has begun. The military will most likely not use computer attacks because the CIA and NSA "weren't there for the prewar exercises." Thus, the US war plans call for a loss of life and destruction before any sort of Information Warfare can be used. The lack of NSA co-operation dumps any chance of utilizing advanced means to "mission kill" enemy computers without destroying them. Computer centers destroyed by conventional means will not stop an entire network because data can be re-routed using an Internet like system of nodes. However, an attack using information warfare techniques can corrupt a computer center, causing major disruptions in the entire network which cannot easily be fixed.

Pentagon officials are also worried about a computer mutiny. Once soldiers and airmen start dying in a war the younger, computer savvy officers and enlisted men, will use any means at their disposal to attack the enemy, including unauthorized computer attacks. Pentagon officials are openly concerned that once the shooting starts they may not be able to control the troops and may face an open mutiny in the ranks.

source: Aviation Week & Space Technology - pages 67 and 68, Sept. 15, 1997


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