12th Defense Symposium addresses cyber issues

May 11, 2013

French & American military leaders, government officials, experts, and industry convene for second bilateral exchange to explore technology & security


READ ALSO: Foundation Forum Interview with Young Leader Scott Holcomb

Cyber security continues to grow as a national defense priority in both France and the United States. Cyber space – the ubiquitous yet ambiguous realm in which information-sharing,  communication, and commerce are increasingly conducted – has emerged as what many perceive as the new terrain for international conflict.

Cybercrime increasingly threatens national economies and financial institutions, while industry is faced with the loss of intellectual property as cyber espionage becomes a more common practice. The information age also promises to reshape the way militaries operate, and the United States recognizes cyber space as a new military domain. New technologies have brought new capabilities and approaches to traditional defense operations, while an ever-growing reliance on global networks has created new vulnerabilities.

As leaders on both sides of the Atlantic face the many challenges and uncertainties in this fledgling domain, the French-American Foundation, in partnership with the French Joint Staff (Etat-Major des Armées), held its 12th French-American Defense Symposium on October 2-4 in Washington, D.C. Building on talks started in the April 2012 Symposium, this convening of military and government leaders, experts, and corporate representatives from the two nations once again focused on the issue of cyber security.

Adopting the informal format established in 1997 with the first Defense Symposium, this conference consisted of six closed-door, off-the-record sessions that allowed key players from the two nations to discuss these topics openly. The Symposium was also a forum for participants to interact outside their official capacities, with the goal of creating a French-American network of cyber experts. Discussions ranged from strategic approaches to maintaining a secure cyber space to public-private partnerships for international cooperation, and the role of NATO in cyber operations to the application of legal precedent in cyber space.

In addition to these six closed-door sessions, four keynote speakers shared their expertise and insights with the group.

The first day of the Symposium focused on opportunities for greater international and bilateral cooperation. General Keith Alexander, Commander of U.S. Cyber Command and Director of the National Security Agency, opened the Symposium by addressing the potential for greater cooperation between France and the United States. General Jean-Paul Paloméros, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation for NATO, continued this conversation on transatlantic opportunities by emphasizing the role NATO can and should play in defending the cyber space and operations of member nations.

Teri Takai, Chief Information Officer for the U.S. Department of Defense, kicked off the second day, which focused on more operational aspects of cyber defense. Takai spoke on the need and effort to secure the U.S. Department of Defense’s networks. Philippe Camus, Chairman of the Board of Alcatel-Lucent, added his thoughts on the efforts to secure telecommunications infrastructure and the role that industry plays in securing cyber space.

In addition to the private sessions, the French-American Foundation opened the symposium to friends of the Foundation and a wider audience with two public events.

An invitation-only dinner on the evening of Wednesday, October 2, brought French and U.S. participants together with Foundation supporters to hear from François Delattre, Ambassador of France to the United States, and Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Professor at the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, former United Nations Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and recent Deputy Joint Special Envoy for Syria working alongside Kofi Annan in 2012. After Delattre provided general insights on the many opportunities for a greater transatlantic partnership, Guéhenno, who chaired the Commission to prepare the French White Paper on Defense and National Security released in 2013, spoke on the importance France has assigned to cyber security as it continues to adapt its defense strategy and priorities.

Several participants from the private sessions joined the Foundation once again on Friday, October 4, to share their views on the challenges facing France and the United States in the cyber domain and the potential for cooperation between the two nations. Panelists included Frédérick Douzet, Castex Chair in Cyber Strategy at the Institute for Advanced Studies in National Defense (IHEDN); Dmitri Alperovitch, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at CrowdStrike; and Daniel Ventre, Chair in Cyber Security and Cyber Defense at the Ecole Militaire de Saint-Cyr. Ambassador John Negroponte, Vice Chairman of McLarty Associates,  and former Chairman of the French-American Foundation, commented on the emergence of cyber security as a top national and global security priority. As a former Director of National Intelligence and former Deputy Secretary of State, Negroponte drew from his experience leading the United States’ intelligence operations and from his recent experience chairing a Council on Foreign Relations independent task force alongside Samuel J. Palmisano, former President and CEO of IBM. That task force published the report, “Defending an Open, Global, Secure, and Resilient Internet.”

The French-American Defense Symposium was made possible by the generous support of Sogeti, ThalesRaytheonSystems, Alcatel-Lucent, Cassidian, Thales, and Deloitte. All events on October 2 and 3 were hosted by McKenna, Long & Aldridge.

About the French-American Defense Symposium

Established in 1996, as the French armed forces underwent a transition to a professionalized military, the French-American Defense Symposia offer a strong testimony to the willingness of the American and French military to share lessons learned. The symposia are also a unique forum for senior military officers, government officials, defense experts, and relevant corporate representatives from France and the United States to interact outside their official capacities.

The 12 Defense Symposia that have been organized to date have all considered the ways in which the roles of the French and American military are changing and adapting, how these changes affect cooperation between the two militaries and how both militaries can learn from each other and work together more efficiently. Each symposium builds on the work of previous meetings, while addressing timely topics in the defense and security field.