CYBERSECURITYFormer U.S. Cyber Command and NSA Chief Makes the Case for a Cyber Competition Strategy

By Bec Shrimpton

Published 18 August 2022

Former U.S. National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command boss Mike Rogers asks: “What is our vision of the key technologies, the most critical sectors that are really going to drive economic advantage … and [that] if placed at risk would cause us harm, [and] what are the policies we need to create advantage for ourselves?” A new cybersecurity strategy based on what is required to become and remain competitive, secure and resilient should focus on this central question.

Cyber threats to national security and prosperity are today better understood, better prioritized and far better resourced than in decades past. Cyber as a domain, as a threat and as a key opportunity is now a firmly established and essential element of military strategy and capability.

Yet today, state, non-state and individual cyber actors have greater capability, capacity and willingness to use cyber tools aggressively for malicious purposes, and their tolerance for risk has grown.

In the view of former US National Security Agency and US Cyber Command boss Mike Rogers, despite the positives, the overall picture of the cyber domain is one of increased threat and complexity.

Most countries, even if they leverage all the power and capability of their military and defense cyber sectors, can’t effectively respond to this complex threat environment alone. Many nations, Western and non-Western, democratic and non-democratic alike, now understand that their national capabilities and their private sectors are engaged in a competition that is fundamentally unfair.

For decades, countries with market-based economies, such as the United States, have sought to create national frameworks that enable their research and development ecosystems and free-market private sectors to pursue global competitive advantage, largely by keeping government out of their way.

The assumption that market-based economies by their nature could continue to enable the private sector to out-compete and out-innovate their rivals has been disproven. Rogers notes that the approach of an enabled and unencumbered free market served the US well for a time after the end of the Cold War; it led to the invention and dominance by the US and other Western nations of key capability areas like stealth technology, the internet and wireless connectivity.

But between the fourth and fifth generation of these technologies, the playing field has definitively tilted in favor of actors that exploit highly controlled, centralized and coordinated strategies leveraging all the resources and capability in their private and public sectors, including intelligence and espionage capabilities.

China—now openly described as a peer competitor and strategic rival to most Western countries—has assessed that cyber and a range of critical and emerging technologies are game-changers with both domestic and international implications. Cyber is considered by China (and the US and others) as being among a range of technologies that can offer decisive strategic advantages for future prosperity and security.