Shifting The Cyber Conversation From Technology To Risk With Admiral Michael Rogers

Task Force 7 Radio: Experiences And Concerns For National Security

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Jeff Orr

Admiral Michael Rogers

On Episode 111 of the Task Force 7 Radio podcast, host George Rettas interviewed retired Admiral Michael Rogers. Prior to retiring from the U.S. Navy in 2018 after 37 years of service, Admiral Michael Rogers held the duties of commander, U.S. Cyber Command and director, National Security Agency/Chief, Central Security Service.

Experiences As A Leader For U.S. Cyber Command

“The DoD is a highly motivated group of professionals focused on the mission and they do great things for our nation, but you can't deny that at times it can be a bit of a bureaucracy,” said Admiral Rogers. “You're trying to create something new in this kind of hierarchal bureaucratic framework.”

He described that the typical way that the DoD operated, when building something like a new aircraft carrier or creating a new fighter squadron, was to build all the resources, train all the individuals, and then start using it. In contrast, Cyber Command was one of the greatest challenges because the DoD used it as it built it.

Top Concerns For U.S. National Security After Leaving Government

After retiring from the U.S. Navy, the first concern that Admiral Rogers had was how many potential adversaries were focused on conflict in what is known as the “gray zone.” This is attempting to gain advantage against the United States but doing it in a way that “keeps a lid on things” and doesn't trip an armed response from the country. This behavior is observed today in hybrid warfare, in the informational dynamic, in cyber and the use of disinformation. The typical national security frameworks used for post-9/11 counterinsurgency or great nation competition do not apply. What it means to compete in the “gray zone” has yet to be scoped.

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The second concern he expressed was the realization that our government has not fully thought through the national security implications of being in the 21st century with a digital economy and the impact of technology. Admiral Rogers believes that national security and economic impact in the 21st century are inextricably connected.

Changing The Cyber Conversation From Technology To Risk

Many people are intimidated by technology and will use the fact that it is framed as a technical issue as an excuse to steer away from it. “At its heart, the core part of many of these issues is about assessing risk,” notes Rogers. Most leaders that he encountered in the government or in the private sector are very comfortable about discussions concerning risk. Stating the issue in terms that most people could understand also overcame concerns about trust.

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Without being relatable to the audience and using technical lexicon that few understood, it caused some to tune out of the conversation. Admiral Rogers continues, “Our job is to take our knowledge and insight and frame it in a context and in a way that the audience that we're dealing with finds it relevant, comprehendible, and we're doing it in a way that's generating outcomes.”

More About National Security In The Task Force 7 Radio Podcast

The full Task Force 7 Radio podcast episode covers a broad range of topics. Follow our link to hear the Admiral’s perspective on election security, the side effects of the Snowden leaks, why China is not on a level playing field competing against the West, and assessing risk in various critical infrastructure sectors.

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