CyberDominance.com is the official home of General Dominance Theory.
Before we consider Cyber Dominance – or dominance in any domain, we should step back and consider what Dominance means and what we need to achieve it. If we can generally define Dominance, then we should be able to apply those same principles to any domain, including the Cyber Domain.
Introduction and Brief History
General Dominance Theory (GDT) was originally developed in 2014 by Jacob F. Davis as a proposed way to help the US Navy make sense of the Information Domain, and to provide a roadmap on how dominance in the Information Domain (i.e. Information Dominance) could be achieved, and how warfighters could weaponized information. GDT was developed in a vacuum based on the Naval experience and thought experiments of Davis, without regard for US Joint Doctrine or other ideas of what “dominance” means. This was intentional, as Davis believed that an overarching theory of dominance should require no prior knowledge or special training.
After developing and publishing GDT, Davis found that the core idea of GDT does align with the philosophy of Carl von Clausewitz. Many people recognize Clausewitz for the idea that “war is the continuation of politics by other means” (or some variation thereof). However, Clausewitz also defined war as “an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfil our will.” GDT independently arrived at a similar conclusion when considering the question of “what is the goal of war?” GDT defines warfare as “the pursuit of dominance” and dominance as “the state in the battlespace where a desired end state can be achieved completely despite the will of an adversary.“
The second edition of GDT was released in September of 2017.
General Dominance Theory: Not Just for War
Davis also discovered that GDT does not just describe the concept of dominance in the context of military warfare, but also any case where a person or group struggles to achieve their desires. Business, politics, camping, learning – anything. Whether the struggle is against oneself, another, or nature; if there is a struggle, then GDT describes the nature of the struggle and the fundamentals of how to approach the struggle to achieve dominance (i.e. success).
General Dominance Theory
In war (or any struggle), our ultimate goal is to achieve a “desired end state.” We want to change “the way things are” into “the way we want them to be.” This requires two things: (1) the ability to accurately perceive reality and (2) the ability to affect reality. If we can do both of these things perfectly, then we can always achieve this goal, and we can always achieve our desires.
In war, we speak of Domains – we want to achieve dominance in a set of Domains. But what is a Domain? Is it a place, a group of people, an idea? To define Dominance, we must first define the context of dominance.
A Domain is a container. A Domain is an environment. Within a Domain, things happen in a certain way. A Domain is an environment where things exist and where those things are bound by laws and patterns of existence, movement, destruction, propagation, and other environmental factors – the combination of which is either unique of other Domains, or distinct enough to warrant special consideration.
For example, the Air Domain (a domain typically discussed in military warfare) includes all things that exist and move through the air. These things follow laws and rules such as buoyancy, Bernoulli’s principle, and gravity. Things are surrounded by nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide in weather phenomena. Properties of this Domain cause things to move and propagate in certain ways. The behavior of things in this Domain is significantly different from other Domains.
The Cyber Domain, likewise, includes all things that exist and move through or use computer networks. There are laws of propagation (protocols) that should be obeyed and laws of physics that must be obeyed. There are laws and physical restrictions made by governments or businesses or other groups of people. Humans use computer networks, and computers and other machines use computer networks.
Members and qualities of one Domain (e.g., people, things, and rules of movement) can be found in other Domains, and members and qualities of one Domain can have an impact on another. In other words, if something is a member of one Domain it can also be a member of another Domain. It isn’t the individual members and qualities of a Domain that make it distinct; rather, it is the combination of those members and qualities.
Defining Dominance and Warfare
Perception of Reality (“POR”), a component of Success in War (as introduced above), is determined by two factors: (1) our ability to collect information and (2) our ability to synthesize information. Collection is the process of completely receiving (both actively and passively) information from a given domain. Synthesis is the process of correctly changing that raw collected information into something factual with meaning – something that accurately describes some part of reality.
The Ability to Affect Reality (“ATA”) is the other component of Success in War. Any way that any player in a Domain can affect reality is considered ATA. ATA allows you to affect your opponent or the environment.
The actions we take both in our pursuit of POR and ATA are performed under competitive circumstances against an adversary – and that adversary’s desired end state is often not the same as our desired end state. An adversary can be another player in the Domain, or difficulties inherent to the Domain itself (e.g. gravity will always try to pull you towards another body). Therefore, our adversary may take actions that prevent us from achieving perfect POR and perfect ATA. In many struggles, we must achieve our desired end state at the expense of our adversary’s desired end state. In other words, we want to be the dominant party. Therefore, Dominance is the state in the battle space where a desired end state can be achieved completely despite the will of an adversary. The better our POR and ATA, the closer to Dominance we come. Dominance is achieved when we have a perfect POR and ATA. Note that achieving Dominance doesn’t mean we have achieved our desired end state, it merely means that if we wanted to, we could without any chance of failure.
The struggle for Dominance is war, and the actions we take to win the war are all part of Warfare. In the context of this paradigm, therefore, Warfare is the struggle against an adversary to achieve and retain a perfect ATA and POR. In other words, Warfare is the pursuit of Dominance.
Because Warfare is the pursuit of Dominance, achieving Dominance is achieving Success in War. We can therefore substitute Dominance for Success in War in the previous diagram. This illustrates that a perfect ATA and POR will result in Dominance.
Six Critical Controls of Dominance
Achieving Dominance requires control of our adversaries and of ourselves. Based on the components of Success in War (POR and ATA), this control can be broken down into Six Critical Controls (SCCs) required to achieve Dominance:
- Control our collection of information
- Control our synthesis of information
- Control our Ability to Affect Reality
- Control the adversary’s collection of information
- Control the adversary’s synthesis of information
- Control the adversary’s Ability to Affect Reality
SCCs 1-3 are the Pillars of Defense. SCCs 4-6 are the Pillars of Offense. SCCs 1 – 3 are defensive because loss of any one of these requirements will preclude us from achieving Dominance. Reciprocally, if we achieve any of the requirements 4 – 6 then we can prevent our adversary from achieving Dominance, hence why SCCs 4-6 are offensive.
General Warfare Framework
Properly allocating scarce resources is essential to achieving and maintaining Dominance, so we must ensure that everything we do has a reason that supports that objective. In vast and/or complex organizations this challenge cannot be understated. One prime purpose of GDT is to aid such organizations in achieving Dominance by guiding the allocation of scarce resources.
To guide the pursuit of Dominance, we can take the Six Critical Controls of Dominance and form a General Warfare Framework (GWF). This framework can help ensure that each task we undertake can be traced back to one of these six requirements, and is therefore very likely to be contributing towards Dominance (and therefore not a waste of scarce resources).
Each of the Six Critical Controls of Dominance can be divided into one of two categories: (1) Inputs and (2) Outputs. Inputs satisfy SCCs 1 and 2 and are the actions we take to increase our Perception of Reality (POR). Inputs can also be described as Intelligence (to use a military term). Outputs satisfy SCCs 3-6 and are things we do to affect our adversary or protect ourselves. Outputs can also be described as Operations.
Tasks that enable Input and Output actions are Conduits. They provide the Infrastructure for Intelligence and Operations. These actions don’t directly contribute to achieving Dominance because they don’t directly address an SCC, but they can be essential to Operations and Intelligence actions.
|Task Purpose||Description||Applicable Critical Controls||Task Category|
|Inputs||Tasks that achieve Perception of Reality||1 & 2||Intelligence|
|Outputs||Tasks that achieve and maintain Ability to Affect||3, 4, 5, & 6||Operations|
|Conduits||Tasks that enable Input and Output actions||All (indirectly)||Infrastructure|
If every task we perform can fit into one of these three categories, we can have a high degree of confidence that we are working towards the philosophical objective of Dominance.
General Dominance Theory starts with an apparent truth: to dominate is to be able to achieve a desired end state despite the will of an adversary. GDT takes this truth and identifies the fundamental things needed to achieve Dominance (Ability to Affect Reality and Perception of Reality) and provides a guideline for achieving those things via the General Warfare Framework. The GWF and GDT aren’t just for war, it applies to any case where an individual or organization struggles to achieve something in the face of an adversary, be it human, man-made, or natural.
The next steps of achieving Dominance are discussed in other articles in the General Dominance Theory section here at CyberDominance.com:
- Defining your Desired End State Space (finding out what you want)
- Defining your adversary’s Desired End State Space (what your adversary wants)
- Taking action
- Measuring your progress towards Dominance
- Maintain your achievement of Dominance
- (Full, verbose theory) General Dominance Theory and Applications to Information Dominance: A Paradigm for Success in War (SECOND EDITION) September, 2017
- General Dominance Theory for Proceedings July 2014
- General Dominance Theory for Disruptive Thinkers 05Aug2014
- General Dominance Theory: A Better Way to Achieve Information Dominance
- GDT for DISAs JIE – Proceedings 2015 Information Dominance Essay Contest