The U.S. Military Academy Cyber Policy team won the inaugural Indo-Pacific Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge, Sept. 28-29 in Sydney, Australia. The Black Knights beat out fourteen other teams from three different countries, including competitors enrolled in top graduate schools.
According to atlanticcouncil.org, the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge is an annual cyber policy competition for students across the globe to compete in developing national security policy recommendations tackling a fictional cyber catastrophe. Events are held worldwide in high-profile cities like Washington D.C., Geneva, Switzerland, Sydney, Australia, and New York City--in each of which the West Point Cyber Policy team was successful.
For this event's specific challenge, participants had to respond to a major cyberattack of national and international importance in the Indo-Pacific region. The teams were required to compose policy recommendations and justify their decision making process, considering the roles and responsibilities of relevant civilian, military, law enforcement and private sector organizations while updating their recommendations as the scenario evolved.
The team of USMA cadets who participated in the Sydney event included Class of 2018 Cadets Hannah Fairfield and Lexie Johnson, Class of 2019 Cadet James Pruneski and Class of 2020 Cadet Robert Norwood.
"It was a really cool experience," Norwood said of Cyber 9/12. "We were able to learn a lot about the Australian government and how they respond to cyber threats and how their organization, in regard to cyber, is similar and different to that of the United States."
Maj. Patrick Bell, one of the coaches, along with Capt. Austin Minter, said that prior to traveling to Sydney, the team went through a great deal of training.
"A lot of preparation was necessary for our cadets to put themselves into the shoes of advisors to Australia's Prime Minister," he started. "They needed to understand the inner workings of the Australian government, with regards to both international and domestic policy, especially, but not exclusively, with regards to cyber policy."
The West Point Cyber Team is part of the Army Cyber Institute's leader development effort, supporting both USMA and the Army. Notably, the cyber realm gets bigger each day.
"Unlike the physical domains, cyber is not bound by geography," Bell explained. "Future leaders will need to understand cyber policy implications as they plan to execute operations. Competing internationally allows our cadets to understand different perspectives that will be useful as we work within multinational and coalition operating frameworks."
Because of this, one of the main efforts of the Institute is leader development so that the entire Army understands cyber and its implications on the battlefield.
"The Cyber 9/12 competition plays an important role in developing these cadets as Army leaders," Bell said. "Whether or not they branch cyber, their understanding of cyber and policy is something they will take with them to help educate the force."
As USMA develops leaders of character, those leaders will need to understand the role of cyber as they enter the operational Army for years to come. With the help of the Army Cyber Institute and other USMA departments, they are working to get there.
"It is a great accomplishment for the team to win in Australia," Bell concluded. "But the bigger story for USMA and the Army is that we are preparing our future leaders to respond to challenges they may face in the near future."