Five Questions With: Peter Dombrowski

It’s coming up on the one-year anniversary of the opening of the Cyber and Innovation Policy Institute, part of the Naval War College in Newport. The institute’s goal is to stay ahead of research and education on cyber conflict to help shape U.S. Navy policy.

Peter Dombrowski, professor of strategy with CIPI, discusses progress so far and the importance of the institute’s work, even in peacetime.

PBN: Is there much overlap in research efforts of the CIPI and other research centers – Institute for Future Warfare Studies, Stockton Center for International Law, etc.?

DOMBROWSKI: Faculty from across the Naval War College collaborate, formally and informally, on a wide range of teaching, research and war-gaming projects. This is especially true for the college’s centers and institutes. Most have overlapping memberships and the issues – from the future of warfare to cyber capabilities – are interconnected.

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The relationship between the Stockton Center and CIPI is an excellent example. The founding director of the Stockton Center, professor Michael Schmitt, is one of the world’s leading international experts on the legal dimension of cyber operations in war and peace. He is thus an active member of CIPI and leading contributor to our thinking about cyber conflict.

PBN: Reflecting on the past year, what do you think is the most significant event in the CIPI?

DOMBROWSKI: We have had a very busy year as we have completed four major projects, but the most significant event has yet to happen! On July 25-26, we are hosting Defending Forward: 2019 Critical Infrastructure War Game … the third in a series of critical infrastructure wargames that began in 2016.

This year’s event will bring 50 executives from the finance and energy sectors together with government officials and other cyber experts to help us understand the implication of the Trump administration’s new cyber strategy. We are focusing on public-private sector interactions to help implement and sustain an effective approach to defending the nation’s national interest in cyberspace.

PBN: What is the biggest challenge?

DOMBROWSKI: The biggest challenge is “herding cats.” The NWC has several hundred faculty members and professional staffers – at least 20 of whom have an interest in cyberspace and innovation and many more whose areas of expertise are affected by cyberspace. We have requests for research, analysis and teaching from across the Navy, the military, the country as a whole and indeed the world. Building a new institute complete with resources, members, staff, core competencies and a long-term strategy means listening to, cajoling and collaborating with many diverse groups.

PBN: How would you summarize the status of cyberspace and other international powers that could mean to harm U.S. security?

DOMBROWSKI: Cyberspace is essential to U.S. national security both in peacetime and in war. Cybersecurity is necessary for the U.S government and U.S. military operations – to defend the nation’s institutions and uphold American and international laws. The same is also true for American public and private industry. Almost all of us have been affected by cyberattacks in one form or another; nearly everyone has been inconvenienced by technologies and systems designed to keep our data safe and our network communications secure. Many private firms have lost money and customers due to cyberattacks by other nations and criminals.

PBN: Have we seen any effects between the center’s work and federal military policy so far?

DOMBROWSKI: Yes, indeed, although we cannot talk in public about our most significant contributions. We do a great deal of work for the U.S. Navy and other parts of the government, including designing wargames and conducting tailored analysis on pressing strategy, policy and operational issues.

More generally, the research and analysis of CIPI’s faculty members are available to the public in the form of books, books, articles, blog posts and multimedia. Google us! Follow us on Twitter! We believe that as CIPI grows and ages, its impact will be still greater inside the government and for the public. Stand by, because the best is yet to come.

Susan Shalhoub is a PBN contributing writer.