WASHINGTON — The U.S. national security community and its allies must be more publicly transparent about its methods and its findings if it hopes to fend off information warfare campaigns, a panel of experts said Sept. 4 at the Defense News Conference.

During a session on hybrid warfare, panelists said that adversarial information operations are a low-cost, low-risk method of war. Army Lt. Gen. Karen Gibson, the deputy director at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for national security partnerships, said one purpose of hybrid warfare is to accomplish strategic objectives without using force.

“What we are seeing now is an unprecedented ability to use information as an element of warfare,” she said. “IT systems have made us more connected.”

As a result, enemies can more quickly promulgate information (through social media, for example) and precisely target groups and individuals. The advent of artificial intelligence and the internet of things will only create greater risk.

Adversaries “don’t have to prove [their] case,” she said. They “just have to cast doubt. … We need to convince our allies and the public of the decision we’re making.”

This is especially important for organizations such as NATO, panelists said.

To evolve and be better equipped for this environment, Gibson said, the intelligence community must be willing to declassify information, embrace open source tools and institutionalize the use of public information.

“Our D.C. intel community has a culture … that the more caveats and the higher the classification on the product, the better it must be,” she said.

To combat that thinking, she added, intel officers should remember their reports could provide a broader benefit if they are intended for the general public.

“You have to think about the purpose of what you’re writing,” she said. “It may not be the president.”

Staffers must also balance the accuracy of information with the timeliness of any release.

Senior national security leaders have echoed many of those sentiments in recent months. Army Gen. Mark Milley, the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in confirmation hearings that the Pentagon will have to invest in information warfare tools that can create confusion. In addition, the head of Army Cyber Command said he plans to provide service leaders with a proposal that would rename that organization Army Information Warfare Command.

Chris Pehrson, vice president of strategic development at General Atomics, said at the conference that “we need big data to recognize these trends before they became self-evident.”

He described one method to increase the amount of relevant data as an “Uber” for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, essentially providing the data to commanders on demand.

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