August 20, 2013
The U.S. Cyber Command, or USCYBERCOM, was launched with great fanfare in 2010 to conduct “full-spectrum military cyberspace operations…in order to ensure U.S. and allied freedom of action in cyberspace, while denying the same to our adversaries.” In a recent speech, former director of national intelligence Michael McConnell warned that the U.S. “is fighting a cyberwar today, and we are losing.” This week the media was atwitter over the “cyberwar” against various news services, apparently instigated by supporters of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
Since 2010, USCYBERCOM’s budget and its ranks have both swelled. It is now housed in a $358 million headquarters at Fort Meade, which is also home to the National Security Agency. Reuters reports that it is “adding 3,000 and 4,000 new cyber warriors under its wing by late 2015, more than quadrupling its size.” In the 2014 budget Cyber Command spending will grow by $800 million to $4.7 billion.
Is McConnell right? Is the U.S. losing a cyberwar? In his intriguing new book, Cyber War Will Not Take Place, Thomas Rid, a War Studies scholar at King’s College in London, argues that not we are not currently engaged in a cyberwar, and indeed that such a “war” is unlikely ever to take place. Rid is a careful thinker who believes that the public and policymakers are being misled about the magnitude of harm that cyberattacks can inflict.