In May, the U.S. Department of Defense published Joint Doctrine Note 1-16, “Command Red Team.” If you haven’t read it yet, you should. One of the more interesting aspects of the document is how it divides red teaming into four activities. We’d like to learn which of these types you perform, but first, take a minute to review the definitions:
You’ve probably met the red teamer who believes that red teaming cures all ailments without introducing any side effects. Beware this red teamer.
Seasoned red teamers understand that mismanaged red teaming can potentially introduce just as much uncertainty as it claims to reduce (if not more), leading to a very real and potentially dangerous false confidence. Read on …
I encountered the following quote from Waverley Root last night when starting Peter Tompkins’ 1965 book The Murder of Admiral Darlan. I was unable to find the full quote on the Internet and felt obliged to post it here. I present it without excessive comment, only to note (1) how relevant it is to current debates and (2) how closely the classic concept of the intrepid journalist maps to the irrepressible spirit of the superior red teamer (bounded, of course, by appropriate rules of engagement!).
It is the business of democratic journalists to try to turn the light of day into the dusty corners of secret diplomacy, and to expose to the view of the people the machinations which seek to dispose of them, even in the republics, in defiance of the principle which states that the people should decide their own fate.
Such journalists are therefore engaged in an unending war against secretive officials. They seek to expose what the officials seek to hide. If they [the journalists] win, the officials of the future will be of a new stripe (of whom we have some already), who will carry on their activities in the full view of the public, hiding nothing from them.
If the keepers of the secrets win, there will be no more journalists in the future al all, only scribes setting down slavishly what they are told to write. We have some of these already, too.1
- Waverley Root, as quoted in Tompkins, p. 15. [↩]
Over the years, I’ve been asked my times how red teaming began. I don’t believe there’s an easy answer to the question. Some point to the German Kriegsspiel or earlier variants of battlefield simulation (chess, for example). Micah Zenko in his book Red Team highlights the Catholic practice of employing a devil’s advocate. I’ve recently encountered another example of proto-red teaming: the ancient Stoic practice of praemeditatio malorum.1 Read on …
- For the sake of completeness, I must note that (1) the practice wasn’t strictly limited to the Stoics, nor is Stoicism limited to the ancients. [↩]
While I’ve long said that red teaming is useful for more than just security, I believe security red teaming remains by far the dominant form. To test this hypothesis, I surveyed the first five pages of red teaming jobs on Indeed.com.1
What I learned informally confirmed my hypothesis. In the first chart, you’ll see that the only non-IT forms of red teaming that appeared were proposal management jobs and jobs that I binned in the “intelligence” category (one involved future technologies and the other described a general intelligence red teaming role). I separated the IT-security jobs—those with the red bars—into categories as best I could based on the job announcements, but the overall trend is clear: roughly 85% of the jobs listed relate directly to IT security. Read on …
- I used the following search string: “red team” or “red teams” or “red teaming” or “devil’s advocate” -medical -patient -treatment -nurse [↩]
We completed another session of The Red Teamer’s Book Club today. Joining us this time around was Andreas Kluth, author of Hannibal and Me. While we certainly talked about Hannibal and his stratagems, we also talked about life and the nature of making decisions in challenging circumstances. All in all, the discussion supported the notion that the best red teamers know a lot about a lot of different topics. (Andreas Kluth showed signs of being a natural red teamer, by the way!) Be sure to join us for future sessions. We’ve reached out to two different authors to see if they might be available in the next couple of months to talk about red teaming, life, and the universe with us.
I worry sometimes that I spend too much time focused on the project-of-the-moment. Yesterday, I broke away from my desk and had lunch with RTJ contributing editor Kelly McCoy. I always enjoy talking with Kelly because his years as a firefighter combined with his broad knowledge give him a unique perspective on the challenges we face as red teamers. Our discussion ranged across a variety of topics, but one thing that struck me was just how important it is for the red teamer to see the whole system. It comes through in Kelly’s writings here, here, and here. If you haven’t read these posts, be sure to do so. They reinforce just how complementary the concept of resilience is to both security and red teaming. The posts also remind us how important it is to share concepts and ideas across domains. And all this because I decided to go eat lunch in the sun with a friend!
We are pleased to point Red Team Journal readers to a new monograph from RTJ advisor Dr. Robert J. Bunker. The monograph, Old and New Insurgency Forms, is available as a PDF download from the Strategic Studies Institute. Per the executive summary, it “creates a proposed insurgency typology divided into legacy, contemporary, and emergent and potential insurgency forms, and provides strategic implications for U.S. defense policy as they relate to each of these forms.” As always, we highly recommend Dr. Bunker’s work.
I‘ve been teaching a knowledge management course since the start of the year. One of my preferred textbooks, Donald Hislop’s Knowledge Management in Organizations, is somewhat unique in the field for noting how much issues of power influence the practice of knowledge management. Knowledge is power, and not everyone holds equal knowledge and power. This affects the day-to-day practice of knowledge management. For example, someone holding knowledge might view sharing that knowledge as a loss of power, or staff might view management’s request for process knowledge as a prelude to pink slips. As obvious as this might seem, many textbook authors discuss the topic of knowledge management without ever mentioning unequal power relationships. Read on …
Intuition is something we don’t talk enough about in the red teaming world, yet it’s among the most important skills the superior red teamer possesses.1
Why don’t we talk about it more? We can’t measure it. We can’t consign it to a checklist. We often don’t realize it’s valid until after the fact. Anyone can claim it, just as easily as anyone can dismiss it. Plus, superior red teamers often view even their own intuition skeptically. Read on …
- Update: Edited 2 March. A friendly Tweet this morning reminded me that UFMCS does talk about intuition, so I dropped “a lot” from the intro and replaced it with “enough,” which I think is fair since the majority of RTJ readers are unlikely to ever attend the UFMCS program. Setting aside the very worthy efforts of UFMCS and a handful of other similarly focused organizations, the broader and rapidly growing world of red teaming remains largely self-taught. [↩]