US military not ready to wage digital attack: official

April 15, 2015

The US military is well equipped to defend the country against cyberattacks but is not yet ready to wage digital warfare, a senior defense official told lawmakers on Tuesday.

The military's cyber command, created in 2009, lacks the means to lead an offensive campaign in a fast-moving digital conflict, said Eric Rosenbach, the Pentagon's principal adviser on .

Asked by Senator Bill Nelson if the command lacks the computer network infrastructure to carry out a cyber offensive "effectively," Rosenbach said: "Yes, they currently do not have a robust capability."

But when it comes to defending US networks, "we are in good shape," he told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee on emerging threats.

His comments were unusual because officials previously have suggested the military was ready to lead an offensive digital campaign if necessary.

Rosenbach told senators there was no shortage of resources or funding for cyber command but there were technical and manpower problems that had to be tackled.

Pentagon chief Ashton Carter was following the issue closely and was ready to support more investment in cyber command as needed, he added.

Carter is reviewing a new cyber strategy for the military that is due to be released next week, he said.

Cyber command, in preparing options for offensive digital operations, was prepared to go after some civilian targets, Rosenbach said, "but in a very precise and confined way."

Any offensive action would adhere to the laws of war and seek to avoid causing civilian casualties, he said.

But in response to questions from lawmakers on what a possible offensive operation might entail, Rosenbach said he would prefer to discuss the subject in a closed door, classified hearing.

Experts and former officials have cited the computer worm Stuxnet that disrupted Iran's nuclear program in 2010 as an example of a suspected joint US-Israeli digital operation.

US cyber command is supposed to create a force of about 6,000 personnel for all the branches of the armed forces.

The Pentagon recently said it hoped to reach that by 2016 but Rosenbach said the military will not meet that objective until 2018. He blamed automatic budget cuts in recent years that had undermined training efforts.

Explore further: Pentagon eyes recruiting cyber talent through National Guard

Related Stories

Pentagon eyes recruiting cyber talent through National Guard

April 14, 2015

The Defense Department still doesn't have the capabilities and resources needed to defend against a major cyberattack from another nation or other tech-savvy criminals, Pentagon officials told members of a Senate panel Tuesday.

US spymaster warns over low-level cyber attacks

February 27, 2015

A steady stream of low-level cyber attacks poses the most likely danger to the United States rather than a potential digital "armageddon," US intelligence director James Clapper said on Thursday.

Recommended for you

How social networking sites may discriminate against women

April 20, 2018

Social media and the sharing economy have created new opportunities by leveraging online networks to build trust and remove marketplace barriers. But a growing body of research suggests that old gender and racial biases persist, ...

Virtually modelling the human brain in a computer

April 19, 2018

Neurons that remain active even after the triggering stimulus has been silenced form the basis of short-term memory. The brain uses rhythmically active neurons to combine larger groups of neurons into functional units. Until ...

'Poker face' stripped away by new-age tech

April 14, 2018

Dolby Laboratories chief scientist Poppy Crum tells of a fast-coming time when technology will see right through people no matter how hard they try to hide their feelings.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.