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A Breakthrough Moment: IMAs lead groundbreaking academic discussion at China cyber conference

  • Published

With tens of thousands of cyberattacks targeting United States systems and infrastructure every day, the urgency of building and growing the most robust capabilities and strategies in the information domain could not be more pronounced.

Leading this effort for the Department of Defense is U.S. Cyber Command, whose mission is to direct, synchronize and coordinate cyberspace planning and operations to defend and advance national interests in collaboration with a variety of domestic and international partners.

Recently, these Cyber Command partners have expanded to include U.S. academic institutions and think tanks; and Air Force Reservists are playing pivotal roles in leading and sustaining that effort.

In September, three Individual Mobilization Augmentees led Cyber Command’s first-ever Academic Partnership Conference via a closed China cyber conference between Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and strategists and analysts from Cyber Command.

The event was the result of Cyber Command’s vision of developing deeper ties between the command and top U.S. scholars to deliberate on various contexts related to cyber operations. More events are expected, including partnerships with academic institutions like Harvard University, think tanks like the Foreign Policy Research Institute and the Hoover Institution, and many others.

“This is a breakthrough moment for the command in many ways,” said Col. Bob Murray, who moderated portions of the conference and helped organize the event for Cyber Command. “The broad strategic views of academia can add tremendous value and alternative perspectives for the analysts, planners and operators.”

This event focused on how cyber fits within Chinese strategic priorities, how China thinks about cyber operations and technology within its broader foreign policy, and how China is using information and disinformation to apply its influence internationally.

Lt. Col. Jackie Schneider, a fellow at the Hoover Institution and expert on military strategy and policy related to technology and cyber operations, led the orchestration of the event on behalf of the Hoover Institution and also served as overall moderator. Schneider is an IMA currently assigned to Space Systems Command after spending several years at Cyber Command.

“What is special about the IMA program is how well it can leverage unique skillsets that Citizen Airmen bring to the Total Force,” she said. “In my case, being an IMA allows me to take my academic work on cyberspace and strategic stability, as well as my professional network of scholars, directly to Cyber Command. Events like this conference highlight the extraordinary resources that the IMA program can be for the Total Force.”

Maj. Oriana Skylar Mastro is a widely published academic and China expert at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. She is currently assigned as an IMA to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command where she works in strategy and plans.

Mastro was on the conference’s China Strategy panel, and contributed numerous ideas and perspectives on China’s broader strategic aims, including those pertaining to the South China Sea and Taiwan.

“Understanding the nuances of Chinese culture and ideology is the doorway through which we can gain insight into what Beijing’s ambitions are and how it means to achieve them,” she said. “Academic research holds the key to that doorway.”#ReserveReady #ReserveReform