By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
May 27, 2010 - Cyberspace "will change how we fight" in the next 20 years, the nation's top military officer said here yesterday as he challenged leaders at all levels to understand the threats and help to posture the military to deal with them.
"I am particularly concerned about cyberspace," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Class of 2010 graduates at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Mullen called cyberspace "a global common in which we do not enjoy unmatched advantage, where international norms are the easiest to flout without consequence, and upon which our entire way of life depends."
Recognizing its strategic impact, and how it will affect military operations, Mullen called on the new officers to "stay open to new ideas" within the cyber realm and to help in shaping and leading the military as he confronts this growing challenge.
Mullen echoed that message to about 500 servicemembers at a town hall session at nearby Peterson Air Force Base, telling them he expects warfighting requirements in space and cyberspace "will grow exponentially" in the years ahead.
"We will have great opportunities and great challenges in those two areas, particularly those areas where we are not dominant [and] we don't have the advantage," he said.
Mullen called the recent stand-up of U.S. Cyber Command, which reached initial operational capability last week, "a significant step forward" that will help "get our arms around what this means."
Cyberspace is far broader than intelligence and cryptologic operations, the chairman said. "It's going to affect every single leader that is here, in every single warfare area ... in the future. So we are all going to have to be a whole lot smarter and better in those areas."
Gone are the days when the military could simply relegate the issue in the "Six World" – the staff elements responsible for command, control, communications and computer systems, he told the group. "Leaders can no longer do that," he said. "Leaders have to know more about it. Leaders have to get engaged."
Leaders at all levels need to understand the issues and the threat, he told reporters following the session. "They have to be trained in it, and they have to make sure their people are prepared in it," he said. "So that's what I am encouraging them to do with that. Don't just turn it over to the chief or turn it over to the sergeant major."
"We can't do it," he said. "It's too lethal and too potent, and there are adversaries in the cyber world that we don't understand yet."
Citing the lack of boundaries, rules and authorities regarding cyberspace, Mullen said he foresees a day when the international community comes together to agree to a common set of standards about its use.
Mullen said he already has experienced some crises related to computer hacking, and lauds investments already made and continuing efforts to prevent these threats.
"It's pretty scary stuff," he said of the cyber threat. "And it needs to continue to be addressed very, very rapidly."