Author Biography

Lt Col Benjamin Hatch, USAF, is currently a student at the Air War College, Air University, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. Previous to this assignment, he served at the Pentagon on the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Deputy Directorate for Global Operations (J-39) where he oversaw specialized support to sensitive plans and joint military operations. A combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, Lt Col Hatch has commanded Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) detachments three times. He also completed two staff assignments at Headquarters, Air Force, where he concurrently served as an executive officer for the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board Study on Defense of Forward USAF Bases. He earned a master’s degree in Government from Johns Hopkins University in 2008.



Subject Area Keywords

Cybersecurity, Defense policy, Foreign policy, International law, Military affairs, North America, Russia, Security policy, Security studies, Strategy, Weapons of mass destruction


This article examines the merits of defining a class of offensive destructive cyber weapons as weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It analyzes the growing danger of destructive cyber weapons in the future joint operating environment and the devastating effects they may have in the physical domain. Further, it outlines evidence that specifically coded, offensive destructive cyber weapons would meet the spirit and intent of the three academic conditions for categorization as WMD. It argues the merits of categorizing a class of destructive cyber weapons as WMD, and addresses important factors required to examine advantages afforded to policy makers. Towards this end, the paper offers two recommendations for consideration to account for the value in designating a class of destructive cyber weapons as WMD. The recommendations include a proposed cyber deterrence theory of “Attributed Response Assured,” and outline how this theory could support a U.S. cyber policy of strategic ambiguity. Further, it recommends defining acceptable behaviors for cyber activity by the international community. In the absence of a U.N.-led effort, the establishment of a Proliferation Security Initiative-type agreement could further steps to clarify “norms” and communicate “redlines” to potential adversaries. These steps would assist policy makers in the collective effort towards enabling the security of a networked world against the most dangerous cyber threats capable of causing mass casualties or mass destruction.


DISCLAIMER This article was originally published in December 2017 as an occasional paper by the USAF Center for Unconventional Weapons Studies at the Air University, Maxwell AFB, AL. It is re-published in the Journal of Strategic Security with permission. The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, or Air University. In accordance with Air Force Instruction 51-303, it is not copyrighted, but is the property of the United States government.