IWS - The Information Warfare Site
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DoD Roles and Missions

Module 3

The Lesson

Go back to intro. Go back to module 2. Go to module 4.

The module learning objective:

  • To consider the question of who does what, who should be doing what, and what policy is in place that provides specific authority for both defensive and offensive IW.

Why is DoD involved in Information Warfare?

Consider the two perspectives:

  1. The offensive perspective. DoD must maintain the leading edge in warfighting capability.
  2. The defensive perspective. DoD must defend America (a shared role).

The DoD is critically dependent on information technology.

In the past:

DoD maintained a dedicated hardened communications capability.


Current technology offers better commercial communications services than past DoD systems. This coupled with declining budgets, has driven DoD to the commercial sector for communications needs.


Currently, 95% of DoD communications ride on the public switched networks.


DoD has no authority to provide guidance on securing the public net.

So, What is DoD's role?

  1. Develop new weaponry that will operate in the new information infrastructure.
  2. Coordinate DoD policy with national policy needs. This can be done through executive committees, congressional support, and commercial interface.
  3. Ensure efficient use and system interoperability (ASDC3I).
  4. DoD procurement - solving future challenges in acquisition and technology (e.g, commercial, off-the-shelf purchases (COTS)).

Here are some DoD agencies who have an important role in IW:

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) - previously known as ARPA, has traditionally coordinated leading edge technology development, and is now focusing on information security technology.
Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) - DISA takes the lead in securing DoD unclassified, but sensitive networks.
National Security Agency (NSA) - has the responsibility for securing the nation's classified data networks as well as managing the nation's cryptographic (code-breaking) activities.

The Joint Chief of Staff

Within DoD, the IW division of effort resides with the Joint Chief of Staff.

J3 is responsible for offensive IW. It coordinates development and approval for release of all IW weaponry. Whereas, J6K is responsible for defensive IW. Further, the J6K acts as the Information Assurance policy coordinator and, focuses DoD's IW education in conjunction with the J7 and ASDC3I.

The split nature of the JCS will likely precipitate a change toward unification of both offensive and defensive IW. Since historically, the military's primary role is warfighting, it would be reasonable to assume that the J3 and J6 will merge their IW mission under the J3 umbrella. Look for similar merging of offensive and defensive missions throughout DoD organizations and agencies.

How does DoD ensure that public systems on which the military depends are secure?

The question of who will coordinate the processes of securing America's information infrastructure is still unanswered, but it is unlikely that DoD will assume this role.

Information Warfare may be likened to waging Infrastructure Warfare. Whoever is responsible for managing the infrastructure will probably assume some key responsibilities in securing America.

So, what is the DoD role at the national strategic level?

To lead from behind.


  1. Provide sound advice on the exact nature of the threat.
  2. Provide information (knowledge) gained by past experiences (i.e., what works and what does not).
  3. Provide technical expertise when requested.
  4. Form partnerships with state and local governments as well as with the commercial sector.

DoD's most important role

As a result of Watergate, Vietnam, and other associated events, public trust in the government has steadily eroded over the past six decades. This erosion has also affected the DoD's image. Many Americans believe that DoD is not in line with main stream culture, e.g., policies on gay's in the military and sexual harassment (Tail Hook). It is a common belief that the Pentagon is looking for a new global threat now that the Cold War is over; that the Information War is the new global threat used to acquire additional DoD funding. Reinforcing these views is the recurring question what is big brother up to? Given that situation, it is clear that the public will demand strong evidence before accepting an expansion of DoD's role into cyberspace.

This cannot be understated: DoD must take steps to re-establish the public trust and provide clear evidence that the IW threat is real. The first steps are:

  • Openness
  • Education

Public trust is critical. Americans should not have ask What is my government up to?


This module contained two simple, yet important messages. DoD must accomplish these two tasks to accomplish its IW mission:

  • DoD is dependent on the civil infrastructure. DoD must share responsibility with the civil sector for defense of the national information infrastructure.
  • Government department and agencies will have to develop a strategy for leading from behind.

Note: You must have Netscape version 2.0 or higher to run the post test.

Go back to intro. Go back to module 2. Go to post test. Go to module 4.