Director of US Cyber operations offers perspective on modern combat

Laura Morales

Cybersecurity operations help fight terrorism overseas and prevent Russian and North Korean hacking of United States facilities, Brig. Gen. Jennifer Buckner said during a talk at UT on Thursday.

Buckner is the director of Cyber, Electronic Warfare and Information Operations, Headquarters Department of the Army. The Strauss Center invited Buckner as part of the Brumley Speaker Series.

Buckner said cybersecurity plays an important role in modern day combat operations, as well as in preventing attacks. Buckner said the successes of these preventative operations are often unrecognized because their effects are not obvious.

“We are also really challenged on how to characterize the return on investment for preventing an attack,” Buckner said. “That’s the same challenge that many (cybersecurity) businesses have in that there is this insatiable appetite that says, ‘I gave you all this money for cybersecurity, and nothing is happening.’”

Buckner said her department faces understaffing of cybersecurity experts in part because of limited funding from the larger Army department.

The talk was moderated by law professor Robert Chesney and visiting law professor Michele Malvesti. 

Chesney brought up the ethical implications of the Army’s capability to carry out preemptive strikes and surveillance.  

“Can (the United States) do what we do by the way of espionage and other cyber operations, and still criticize adversaries like DPRK and the Russians?” Chesney said. “I believe the answer is yes.” 

Buckner said the U.S. is different from adversaries because of the large amount of government oversight. 

“That is the subject of how we can continue to be the good guys, do what we are supposed to do in the way we are supposed to do it knowing that it’s not a fair fight,” Buckner said. 

Richelle Ramey, a global policy studies graduate student, said the talk helped her recognize how her own skills fit into cybersecurity operations.

“The talk showed a woman in a high position in a hypermasculine world, especially in cybersecurity,” Ramey said. “Something else that was really important for me to hear was how this realm is multidisciplinary. We are needed not just as technologists, but those who are smart on geopolitics can also do our part in the realm of cybersecurity.”


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