Does US need a Cyber Force to tackle China, Russia? – Asia Times

Does US need a Cyber Force to tackle China, Russia? - Asia Times

With close-knit, emerging cyber security spaces, Russia and China, both of which are blending computer and information operations to corporate consequence, are being filled by the US.

In response to long-held concerns about the latest computer security architecture, many media outlets reported late last month that the US Congress is considering establishing an impartial Cyber Force as part of the 2025 protection authorization bill.

A National Academy of Sciences research on the proposed new defense unit is required by an act led by Representative Morgan Luttrell and included in the House Armed Services Committee’s premium.

The plan, which has passed the commission and is awaiting a full House vote, aims to address the inadequacies and complexity of the current US military digital formations, as different studies and analysts have highlighted.

The proposed Cyber Force aims to improve current issues with computer operations, enrollment, and loyalty because they are distributed across several service trees.

If approved, the new unit may remain established by 2027, following more legislative and administrative processes. In light of the rising worldwide computer threats, the development highlights the perceived immediate need for a dedicated digital defense mechanism.

The proposed Cyber Force aims to simplify the corporate model for US cyber capabilities by focusing on a consolidated recruitment, training, and retention platform to harness and advance cyber expertise in a modern battlespace.

The benefits and drawbacks of creating a distinct Digital Force were discussed by Asia Times in March 2024. The latest military, according to its supporters, is insufficient to find, train, and retain digital talent, and that personnel shortages and fragmented strategies are preventing cyber readiness.

Critics point out the complex dependencies of cyberspace with additional military domains and that a separate Cyber Force may lead to new errors and that the current US Cyber Command ( CYBERCOM) could be sufficient for significant restructuring.

They point out potential conflicts of interest and synchronization issues, suggesting that a new independent service might hinder functional effectiveness and integration with standard defense functions.

However, a self-declared computer force could close the gap between US cyber and information operations, which would indicate a convergence in these linked fields.

Zsolt Haig asserts in a peer-reviewed article from June 2021 that cyber operations now transcend traditional computer network operations ( CNO ) through a multifaceted approach that incorporates technical and cognitive information capabilities.

Haig points out that cyberattacks include threats like malware, distributed denial of service ( DDoS ) attacks, physical derailments caused by electronic warfare ( EW ) and cognitive manipulations carried out via social media.

He points out that the interaction between these levels makes it possible to create powerful strategies that combine targeted propaganda campaigns with electric clogging and digital intrusions.

In consequence, he claims that cyber operations are now crucial in both the military and the civilian sectors, demonstrating a seamless fusion of psychological influence and technological exploitation.

However, the US may already be losing ground in information operations vis- à- vis Russia and China, with the latter exploiting the limits of democratic values, social media, domestic politics and budget cuts in US information warfare capabilities.

In a May 2024 Defense One article, Patrick Tucker states that the US has inherent resistance to actively influencing perceptions. This opposition is based on the idea that a country with free press and elected leaders should n’t need to do anything more than just tell the truth.

He points out that this approach has historically limited influence operations to a select few members of the special operations community, limiting its scope and impact.

He adds that as the digital media landscape has evolved, with credible national broadcasts replacing individualized streams, allowing adversaries to use social media to reach potential billions with personalized messages and undermine trust in Western institutions, including the US military.

As Tucker mentioned, Jason Schenker, chairman of the Futurist Institute, says the subjective nature of reality on social media platforms further complicates the US’s ability to maintain a coherent national identity and counter disinformation.

Additionally, Tucker says domestic political dynamics pose a challenge, as efforts to combat foreign influence campaigns can be misconstrued as partisan politics.

Tucker mentions that various government agencies ‘ budget cuts undermine these efforts, suggesting that more centralized and authoritative methods are required to elevate information warfare and influence activities.

He points to Russian-led intelligence operations in Niger and Slovakia, which, he claims, helped to create governments hostile to US interests, and Russian-led intelligence operations that helped shape the conflict zone prior to Crimea’s 2014 annexation.

In the case of China, Dan Blumenthal and other authors point out in a May 2024 report that the US’s conceited focus on a Chinese invasion of Taiwan ignores the possibility that China can reunite with Taiwan using alternative means.

Such tactics include economic coercion and coercion against the US and Taiwan, propaganda and military threats that undermine the legitimacy of the Taiwanese people, instilling fear and doubt in the Taiwanese population, and information campaigns that undermine US political will to support Taiwan.

An independent Cyber Force can fill in gaps in US influence operations by using unified cyber operations expertise to combat disinformation efforts, despite not being a panacea for US information warfare and influence operations woes.

Kylie Foy discusses the efforts of Mary Zurko, a cybersecurity researcher at the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, in an August 2022 MIT News article, to use technology to thwart foreign adversaries ‘ attempts to spread false information online to defy US democratic ideals.

Foy notes that, as with cyberattacks, influence operations follow a “kill chain” to exploit predictable weaknesses, pointing out Zurko’s idea that studying and reinforcing cyber weaknesses can also work against influence operations.

She mentions that Lincoln Laboratory reinforces the initial stages of the influence operation kill chain through” source tending.” This approach involves identifying and constructing narratives that divide people and spreading them through building accounts. It includes tools to assess the impact of particular social media accounts, computational models to identify deepfakes, and machine learning to study digital personas.

Foy mentions Zurko’s leadership in developing a counter-influence operations test bed, a simulated social media environment to test counter-technologies and assess their impact on human operators tasked with identifying disinformation campaigns.

She points out that the initiative calls for collaboration across disciplines like sociology, psychology, policy and law, and cybersecurity experts, and emphasizes the need for a full- system approach that combines human- centered and technical defenses against disinformation.