DOD's Cyber Strategy Emphasizes Building Partner Capacity

  • Published
  • By C. Todd Lopez
  • DOD News

In May, the Defense Department released to Congress the classified version of the 2023 Cyber Strategy. Today, the department made public an unclassified summary of that strategy which reveals a new emphasis on helping U.S. partners and allies build their own cyber capacity.

"Distinct from previous iterations of the DOD cyber strategy, this strategy commits to building the cyber capability of global allies and partners and to increase our collective resilience against cyber attack," said Mieke Eoyang, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy, during a briefing today at the Pentagon. "Allies and partners are a strategic advantage that no competitor can match." 

According to the now publicly available summary of the 2023 Cyber Strategy, the department plans to prioritize efforts to increase the effectiveness of allies and partners in cyberspace. 

"In some cases, the department will work toward this goal by augmenting partner capacity, expanding partners' access to cybersecurity infrastructure and maturing their cyber workforce though combined training events and exercises," the summary reads. 

The summary further states the department has also committed, in some cases, to directly helping develop partner capability by enabling functions a partner needs but does not yet have. 

"The department will enhance our relationship with our most cyber-capable allies and partners at the strategic, operational and tactical levels," the policy reads. "We will expand the total number of partners with whom we engage and integrate these efforts with the wider security cooperation enterprise." 

More broadly, the summary reveals that the 2023 Cyber Strategy asks the department to address current and future cyber threats by pursuing four complementary lines of effort. These lines of effort include defending the nation, preparing to fight and win the nation's wars, protecting the cyber domain with allies and partners, and building enduring advantages in cyberspace. 

"[This] strategy builds upon the direction set by the 2018 DOD Cyber Strategy and is informed by years of real-world experience of significant DOD cyberspace operations," Eoyang said. "It's the department's fourth cyber strategy and represents the secretary's vision for operationalizing the 2022 National Defense Strategy in cyberspace." 

Like the National Defense Strategy, DOD's cyber strategy identifies China as a pacing threat and Russia as an acute threat, Eoyang said. 

She also said that the strategy has been informed by recent activities in Ukraine, following the illegal Russian invasion there. 

"I think prior to this conflict, there was a sense that cyber would have a much more decisive impact in warfare than what we experienced," she said. "What this conflict has shown us is the importance of integrated cyber capabilities in and alongside other warfighting capabilities. And that is consistent with the approach in the NDS on integrated deterrence and is an important lesson for us to think about -- that cyber is a capability that is best used in concert with those others and may be of limited utility when used all by itself." 

According to the strategy, cyber capabilities are most effective when used in concert with other instruments of national power. 

"In this way, cyberspace operations represent an indispensable element of U.S. and allied military strength and form a core component of integrated deterrence," the strategy reads.