Because we won World War II in less time than we have been working on an offensive information warfare capability, the July 18 Politics & the Nation headline “For Pentagon, a slow start in its escalating digital war against Islamic State” was significantly understated.
There are three reasons for this, and they are easy to understand. First, we populate our cyberwarfare capability with officers whose training and experience are in kinetic, not digital, warfare. We would be better off with a group of hackers or by elevating civilians, who would stay in place over a long enough period of time to acquire the requisite skills. Second, we do not have people in key positions or in sufficient numbers who are fluent in either Arabic or Pashto or in grasping cultural nuances. If you can’t understand the language or culture, it is pretty hard to figure out what is going on and respond to it on either a technical or psychological level. And third, the complex web of organizational relationships in U.S. cyberwarfare precludes quick and dynamic decision-making when time is of the essence.