While some officers argued that deterrence of nuclear war required superior numbers of offensive weapons, the ultimately prevailing view was that what mattered most was a secure retaliatory capability. That's what America built and what we still have.
We seem to be slipping into the discredited offensive mindset with regard to cyber weapons. What we need most, of course, is defenses against cyber attacks, and ways of identifying and quickly recovering from whatever attacks might be launched. And we need those defenses for our armed forces and our civilian economy and infrastructure.
But what the new cyber warriors want most is offensive capability, according to recent remarks by senior officials and their congressional supporters. No wonder, with at least 21 federal organizations having some kind of cyber mission, each seeking money for their programs. As P.W. Singer and Allan Friedman noted more than a year ago, there is a cult of the cyber offensive.
This belief in the inherent superiority of cyberoffense has helped drive increased spending on offensive capabilities by militaries around the world, with the U.S. military spending, depending on the measure, 2.5 to 4 times as much on cyberoffense research and development as cyberdefense research.
Of course the United States should have offensive cyber capabilities. But this imbalance against defense is wasteful and worrisome.