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Project on Cyber and National Security

There are currently four areas of research underway.

The main effort at SIPA researches the dynamics of cyber conflict – what is true or believed to be true about cyber conflict, such as the difficulty of attribution, lack of strong borders, or that attacks can happen at “network speed.” Such dynamics are cited in every research paper and government strategy but to date, there has not been a complete, structured discussion of these dynamics from first principles. This research, conducted by Adlai E. Stevenson Professor Robert Jervis and Senior Research Scholar Jason Healey, is the first comprehensive framework of the dynamics of cyber conflict. The academic papers on this work are still in draft but are summarized here as a short brochure that summarizes research to date, providing a two page summary and tables of the dynamics, their categorization, and a summary of the most important dynamics.


A related effort analyzes the new U.S. strategy on cyber deterrence and persistent engagement. It is not an exaggeration that the U.S. position is increasingly that “the best defense is a good offense.” The central part of this work examines the history of cyber deterrence and active defense and the possible feedback loops through which the new U.S. strategy might dampen or amplify conflict. A side effort, in partnership with Neil Jenkins of the Cyber Threat Alliance, is researching possible metrics for the government, private sector, and academics to assess if the strategy is working as intended.


Two more related research efforts investigate cyber effects on the battlefield and changes to civilian-military relations. Most assessments of cyber use on the battlefield either focus on achieving or defending against specific effects or arguing whether cyber capabilities will have an important impact. The SIPA research goes back towards first principles to categorize how such capabilities can be used, analyze the potential impact, and assess which uses might indeed be revolutionary. The initial hypothesis on the work on civil-military relations is that cyberspace has unique attributes which challenge the traditional conceptions of the role of military and society. For example, the traditional military model assumes the central role of the state, strong borders, and hierarchy, while the Internet was engineered to have almost the exact opposite characteristics.

Other related research: