How Strategy Must Align to Strategic Environments: Deterrence and Initiative Persistence

May 2023 No Comments

Speakers: Dr. Richard Harknett (University of Cincinnati)

Date: 10 May 2023

Speaker Session Summary

There have been several strategic paradigm shifts relating to deterrence, coercion, and security across the entire spectrum of conflict and competition. Using the proper deterrence and coercion strategy in the right domain is crucial to success. Dr. Harknett emphasized that the development of initiative persistence is key to building security and effective deterrence in all domains, especially cyber. Security in cyber space is reliant on very different factors than security in conventional warfighting domains. Cyber security relies on partnerships between public and private entities in a whole of government effort that uses an active defense, or forward defense. While forward defense is proactive, it is not aggressive. The current forward defense strategy includes improving defenses of foreign allied networks, improving allied understanding of adversarial tactics, techniques, and procedures, and increasing the resilience of US domestic networks by coordinating with the private sector.

In the past, shifts in deterrence and coercion have been prominent. The most prominent shift being the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are a successful deterrent because they represent an uncontestable cost if an adversary survives a first strike. While having a capability to hurt one’s enemies is crucial to deterrence, an actor’s commitment to act is equally important. Core elements of security in the cyber domain include interconnectedness, constant contact, and a technology base that is being constantly reconfigured. An actor can only defend its cyber security in a singular moment because the software and code being used for its infrastructure is constantly changing. Dr. Harknett emphasized that there will always be an opportunity to use code to disrupt an adversary’s security. He argued that there should be a stronger focus on campaigning in competition below armed conflict to limit, frustrate, and disrupt competitors’ activities that threaten US interests. 

Speaker Session Recording

Briefing Materials

Dr. Richard J. Harknett is Professor and Director of the School of Public and International Affairs and Chair of the Center for Cyber Strategy and Policy at the University of Cincinnati. He co-directs the Ohio Cyber Range Institute, a state-wide organization supporting education, workforce, economic, and research development in cybersecurity. He served as Scholar-in-Residence at U.S. Cyber Command and National Security Agency. He has presented both policy briefings and academic research in 11 countries, on Capitol Hill, and to various US Federal and State government agencies. Professor Harknett has held two Fulbright Scholar appointments: in Cyber Studies at Oxford University, UK and in International Relations at the Diplomatic Academy, Vienna, Austria, where he holds a professorial lecturer appointment. He has authored over 60 publications including the co-authored book Cyber Persistence Theory: Redefining National Security in Cyberspace (Oxford Univ Press, 2022) and has over $30 million in institutional and research grant support.


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