ACI Journal Articles


Who Will Defend the Nation?

USMA Research Unit Affiliation

Army Cyber Institute

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Defense of the nation (and by extension its citizens) is the only task that the Constitution tells the federal government that it must do. However, what happens when the government is ill equipped to handle the defense? Law requires the government to figure out a solution that will use a combination of other Constitutional authorizations to provide a common defense for its citizens. Today, nation-state and non-state actors operating within the digital domain bombard us with the goal to steal our property, harm our livelihood, and destroy our way of life. In the early days of the nation, we faced a similar dilemma on the high seas when our government could not field and maintain a naval force that could defend the nation and its citizens. This paper will draw parallels between the nation's situation then and our situation today with respect to cyber security. By utilizing legal statues and lessons learned over the last two hundred years, we explore a potential solution that could be re-imaged for use today: the issuance of letters of marque & reprisal to private citizens and corporations. Thereby enabling citizens to petition for the responsibility to become privateers (a.k.a. patriots). This paper lays out the construct of such a system to enable a meaningful conversation as a nation to explore what capabilities private citizens and industry should be allowed to exercise in the cyber domain. Whether you believe that the future landscape includes a Skynet or TARDIS or the Matrix or something else not yet imaged, the question still remains- who should defense our nation in the digital domain? Who is equipped to defend the nation?