Cyber Muscle

By Sebastian Sprenger / January 6, 2009 at 5:00 AM

While the Air Force was perhaps the most vocal of the services about plans to fight in cyberspace, others also are gearing up for the fight online. The Army, for example, is doing some intense soul-searching about what changes are needed to ensure soldiers can keep the upper hand in future cyber-fights. After a period of introspection, we're told, Army officials plan to start work on a field manual for cyberspace as part of the service's "3" series. The designation indicates the document will have an operational focus.

In a blog entry on the Combined Arms Center Web site, Army Lt. Col. Chip Bircher gave a good overview last month of the ground service's general thinking in the cyberspace realm. Bircher is the deputy director, futures, in an organization called the U.S. Army Computer Network Operations & Electronic Warfare Proponent.

We talked to Bircher's boss, Col. Wayne Parks, in November, and he told us service officials had begun deliberations about a dedicated force structure for cyberwarfare.

In his blog post, Bircher cites the cyber attacks on Estonia (2007) and in Georgia last summer -- both were allegedly carried out by Russians -- as examples of the types of clashes U.S. forces might face in the near future.

"Cyber attacks prior to the introduction of conventional Russian military forces ((into Georgia)) were in many respects analogous to deep strikes against key infrastructure which set the conditions for a successful Russian ground invasion," he wrote.

This stark assessment of Russian military cyberwar power during the spat with the former Soviet republic is noteworthy, by the way. So far, experts have concluded the cyber attacks were merely aimed at defacing Georgian government Web sites and that there was no link to military action on the ground.