Air Force Official: Yes to Retaliation in Cyberspace

Gen. Norton Schwartz

The Air Force’s top officer is a proponent of taking an offensive stance and attacking foreign-based computer systems if the strikes support the overall cyber mission.

Air Force Times reported that in a speech last week, Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz spoke to the defense industry about the question of what legal authority the United States have to conduct offensive cyber warfare. Other questions involve the categorization of cyber attack, and what would happen if an offensive unknowingly hits a private business or a citizen?

Schwartz said the Air Force is not interested in conducting any offensive cyber attacks unless they are related to work the service is already involved with, such as taking a surface-to-air missile battery offline. The bottom line, he said, is that the Air Force is focusing its limited resources in this area on things that will magnify its cross-domain war-fighting capability.

As an example, he used an attack on an SA-20 air-defense missile system, which the Air Force could attack with a guided bomb or take it down “with electrons.”

“You might choose to be one or the other depending on the circumstances,” he said, according to Air Force Times. “That’s, in my view, an appropriate application of cyber capability for an Air Force mission.”

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