Cyber is Not Yet the Answer

It’s far too early to make the case that cyber weapons—such as the so-called “Stuxnet” worm that reportedly derailed Iran’s nuclear weapons program—can substitute for kinetic force structure, said outgoing Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. The shift from kinetic to cyber weapons is “not like major transitions in weaponry in the past,” such as from horse-drawn to motorized artillery, or the change from “piston to turbojet,” he said in a mid July exit interview. There is “a transition under way,” acknowledged Schwartz, but “it is not yet clear, I don’t think, even to those who are most knowledgeable, where the cyber capabilities will ultimately end up.” Just as in the transition from manned to remotely piloted aircraft, there will be “an indefinite period” when kinetic and cyber weapons will operate side by side, “because there are advantages and disadvantages to both” as well as “complications in terms of employment of both,” said Schwartz. The consequences of using kinetic weapons is well understood, but cyber is “nascent in that regard,” said Schwartz. He added, “We’re far from a point where we’re going to rely on cyber as a principal means of securing US national interests.”