Who is CDR Jacob P. Galbreath and how does he envision the future of strategic cyber defence?

This autumn Commander Jacob Paul Galbreath joined the NATO CCDCOE as Head of Strategy Branch. He majored in theoretical physics, used to work in the US Navy as a submarine and nuclear engineer and has been in charge of 40,000 personnel. But how did his fascination with computers and IT begin and how did he end up in the CCDCOE?

How did you come to the position of Head of Strategy Branch? Tell us about your journey.

I was introduced to my first computer in the sixth grade on an old Apple IIe and quickly became fascinated by the logic and problem-solving aspects of electronics and computers.  I eventually taught myself a couple of programming languages, learned computer hardware, and majored in physics (theoretical) with a focus on quantum computing in college.  Later, while in the US Navy, I earned a master’s degree in IT. For me, IT is not just a career; I have a passion for the field and a home full of computer parts, networking equipment, and many pieces of code that never seem to be finished.

What kind of career background do you have? Rumours are that you have held international positions for many years and that you used to work with tech and submarines – can you elaborate on this?

After graduating with my undergraduate degree, I joined the US Navy as a Submarine/Nuclear Engineer. As a submariner, I was assigned to an attack submarine in Guam and then later served in the Pentagon.  While at the Pentagon, I joined the newly created US Navy Information Warfare community as an IT professional.  I have since performed IT technical and management jobs around the world on land and sea covering the spectrum of electromagnetic and virtualization in distributed networks in Hawaii, rural Japan, mainland US, and the greater Tokyo area. Before being selected to fill the Strategy Branch position, I was responsible for the US Navy’s IT and Communications in Asia for approximately 60 ships and 40,000 personnel covering 124 million square kilometres.

You are originally from the US. What are the main pros and cons when comparing living in the US and Estonia?

I was born in Europe to an American sailor serving in Italy and followed her career in Europe and North America, and since becoming a sailor myself, I have spent as much of my life abroad as in the US. I appreciate learning about Estonian culture, I see it as an opportunity to reflect on the variety of cultures I have had the privilege of experiencing. Having lived mostly in the tropics, my family and I are enjoying the new climate, especially the snow.

Do you already have a vision for the CCDCOE’s Strategy Branch? What would you like to be different in the area of strategy once you rotate out of this position?

Since this is my first assignment in Europe professionally, I am focusing my time with the experts I serve with at CCDCOE to further enhance my understanding of this new environment. I do not know yet if I will have a new vision, but I may have a different approach based on my different experiences. If I could make one difference at this point, it would be to further integrate the cyberspace domain between Alliance ministers and senior military officers as well set an enduring framework for the future.

Why and how is “strategy” important when enhancing collective cyber defence and deterrence?

Strategy provides vision and authority to any domain; cyberspace is no different.  I believe that we currently exist in a time where our strategic and operational understanding of cyberspace is still trying to catch up to the tactical (technical) aspects of the domain.  cyberspace is intertwined with almost all aspects of modern daily life and must be protected as we would any other critical resource. Therefore, we must look ahead and build the relationships, standards, and laws between our nations to defend each other as well as deter those entities that wish us harm.

Do you think that the world will be a more cyber-safe place in the future? What are the main obstacles for achieving that?

I think that cyberspace will eventually be managed and regulated like traditional physical domains. We see nations and people using cyberspace to promote freedom and the sharing of ideas as well as using the domain to isolate and control. Cyberspace is what we want to make it; I will continue to fight with the hope over time that freedom and the rule of law concerning cyberspace prevail.

What in the cyber domain inspires you to do the work that you do?

I am absolutely fascinated by the ongoing evolution of the cyber domain. While artificial in nature, I believe it is the most direct representation of human logic and innovation. To be in this field, at this time, is both fun and challenging.

What is your favourite book and why?

I read a lot, I’m not sure how I could possibly choose just one book. However, one of the most influential non-fiction books for me is an IT book I discovered in seventh grade that started me on this journey: “The Complete PC Upgrade and Maintenance Guide”.  This book broke down to the smallest level how computers work… I fell down the hole with no desire to climb back out.