The recent leaks of U.S. classified information have highlighted the tension between the strategy of “share to win” and the necessity to enforce “need to know” among military commanders, said the deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber and space policy.
Robert J. Butler said sharing information within the military and with coalition partners and outside agencies will continue, but in a more controlled manner.
“Commanders in the field recognize . . . it’s really about coalition warfighting, and it’s about sharing information with partners,” he said.
Exchanging ideas can vary from the intelligence and information sharing the United States has with traditional military allies to nongovernmental agencies, which are all “part of the fight . . . part of the recipe for success,” Butler said.
“Need to know” is the shorthand for how DoD thinks about security, Butler said–about how information is shared, who has the information, for what purposes, and for what time period.
Butler does not see share to win and need to know as mutually exclusive.
“We need to share information to win and we also have to be conscious of the need to know,” he said and used Afghanistan as an example of both concepts. Forty-eight countries comprise NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, and the United States has the largest number of troops in the country and the largest intelligence/information-sharing network.
“In Afghanistan, where we have a joint task force and we’re working on common objectives, it’s clear what information needs are,” Butler said. “Those needs are transmitted down to subordinate units and those will include coalition partners with information requirements that need to be satisfied. We need to link the effects we want to achieve with an information-sharing approach.”
Butler predicted “an absolute recognition” of information sharing, while at the same time acknowledging an increasing challenge from the cyber threat.
DoD is taking steps to address that threat, including examining the content on the networks and looking at the tactics, techniques and procedures used, he said.
“A broader and longer-term perspective is an education program –- one that helps them understand what classification means, how information is classified,” Butler added. “Beyond the classification scheme, who has access to information?”