USMA Cyber team wins competition in France

By Capt. Lisa Beum Army Cyber Institute

January 31st, 2019 | News, News and Features
 The West Point Cyber Policy team and coaches pose for a picture after winning their fourth Cyber 9/12 Strategic Challenge competition in France, Jan. 23.  Photo courtesy of Army Cyber Institute

The West Point Cyber Policy team won its fourth Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge competition in France, Jan. 23.
The Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge is designed to offer students across a wide range of academic disciplines a better understanding of the policy challenges associated with cyber conflict.
The Cyber Policy team represents five different majors: Computer Science, International Relations, Economics, Operations Research and Law.
Preparing for the competition involved not only understanding the relevant laws, strategies and institutions of France and the European Union, but also the processes and timelines involved in using them.
“What the cadets accomplished is tremendous and a testament to their hard work and the resources the academy and Army Cyber Institute have made available to them,” Maj. Patrick Bell, Army Cyber Institute research scientist and a Cyber Policy team coach, said. “To put this into perspective, our team of American undergraduate students won a competition in France, where they notionally advised the French president, while competing against teams of elite French graduate school students and were judged by an expert panel of mostly French judges.”
Although the competition centers around a cyberattack, it requires competitors to understand the full spectrum of options available to national and international leaders. The competition helps demonstrate that the best response to a cyber incident should rarely exclusively be confined to the cyber domain.
“By doing these competitions I hope to develop a true understanding of the interwoven complexities of the cyber domain,” Class of 2019 Cadet Amanda Roper said. “This understanding is important because actions taken within the cyber domain impact all other areas and thus need to be understood from a variety of perspectives with many different areas of expertise.”
Teams must understand the culture in which they are acting, including when to advice caution, aggression, unilateral versus multilateral responses, communicating to the public, allies and adversaries, as well as how they would use the elements of national power.
“I believe it is important to learn about other country’s policies as we live in a world where one country’s actions may have unintended consequences on other country,” Class of 2021 Cadet Shreyans Munot said.
Concurring with his teammates’ sentiments, Class of 2020 Cadet Woo Chul “Peter” Kimadded said, “My biggest takeaway was that cyber requires international cooperation. No state can or should act alone in a domain where few precedents exist which is why alliances and intergovernmental organizations are more important than ever before.”
The competition helped the cadets understand the limitations of intelligence, the importance of decision-making in an uncertain environment and the importance of candor when offering advice.
All the skills the cadets learn while on the Cyber Policy team will be relevant throughout their military careers.
“This competition provided our team with an incredible opportunity to combine diverse strengths to solve a crisis that spanned across several domains of security,” Class of 2019 Cadet Katie McCurry stated. “It solidified my belief that together, our teams are greater than the sum of the individual parts. Especially in the 21st century, we cannot separate science and politics. Everything is connected, and our ability to solve both facets of the problem set us apart from the competition.”