Redefining Information Warfare Boundaries for an Army in a Wireless World

As the Army observed in the 2010 cyberspace operations concept capability plan, society’s dependence on the wireless and wired mediums is converging. Computer and telecommunication networks are becoming one and the same. And the transmission of digitized packets on Internet-protocol and space-based networks is rapidly supplanting the use of old technology (e.g., dedicated analog channels) when it comes to information sharing and media broadcasting.

This monograph identifies the implications of these trends and reconsiders the resulting boundaries of Army cyber operations, at least from a practical standpoint. It focuses on the general and overlapping areas of network operations, information operations, and the more focused areas of electronic warfare, signals intelligence, electromagnetic spectrum operations, public affairs, and military information support operations (formerly psychological operations). Most importantly, it compares the emerging doctrine of cyber operations to all of the aforementioned areas. The intent is to make clear the prevailing boundaries between the areas of interest and the expected progression of these boundaries in the near future. It constructs some new definitions that encapsulate these areas, such as information warfare. This is important because the Army is now studying ways to best apply its cyber power and reconsider doctrinally defined areas that are integral to cyberspace.

This monograph asserts that the relevant realms that contain the functional areas pertaining to information warfare are just two: the psychological and the technical. The psychological is focused on message content, and the target is people. The technical realm is focused on the means to deliver (or prevent delivery of) content, and the targets are machines. This monograph considers how the technical realm and the psychological realm can best be organized and perhaps consolidated.

This study and monograph were not specifically requested by the Army; rather, this monograph summarizes the results of a short study conducted in response to a question about the future of information operations asked by Army senior leadership. RAND Arroyo Center sought an answer to this question as a “Quick Response” study. Quick Response studies are designed to support near-term decisions to be made by Army officials or to provide analyses to the Army leadership to inform U.S. Department of Defense, administration, or congressional decisions and actions. A brief was provided to Army senior leaders within two months of initiation of this project; this monograph summarizes and reports the analytic effort that went into that briefing. The findings and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Army or the U.S. Department of Defense.


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