An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

The Cyber Defense Review

The Strategic Support Force and the Future of Chinese Information Operations

By Elsa B. Kania, John K. Costello | July 31, 2018

The establishment of the Strategic Support Force (战略支援部队, SSF) in December 2015 was a critical milestone in the history of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), against the backdrop of its historic reform agenda. [1] The SSF’s creation reflects an innovation in force structure that could allow the PLA to operationalize its unique strategic and doctrinal concepts for information operations. Despite limited transparency, it is nonetheless possible to glean critical details about the SSF’s composition and key missions, based on a range of open sources. [2] It is clear that the SSF has been designed as a force optimized for dominance in space, cyberspace, and the electromagnetic domain, which are considered critical “strategic commanding heights” for the PLA. [3] Under its Space Systems Department (航天系统部), the SSF has seemingly consolidated control over a critical mass of the PLA’s space-based and space-related assets. Through these capabilities, the SSF has taken responsibility for strategic-level information support (信息支援) for the PLA in its entirety, enhancing its capability to engage in integrated joint operations and remote operations. [4] Concurrently, the SSF has integrated the PLA’s capabilities for cyber, electronic, and psychological warfare into a single force within its Network Systems Department (网络系统部), which could enable it to take advantage of key synergies among operations in these domains. However, beyond the SSF, the PLA also appears to be building up network-electronic operations (网电作战) capabilities within its national Joint Staff Department headquarters and within new regional theater commands (战区), reflecting the emergence of a multi-level force structure specializing in information operations. Thus, the SSF reflects the PLA’s uniquely integrated approach to force structure and operations in these vital new domains. This realization of this paradigm through the SSF will enhance the PLA’s capabilities to fight and win future “informatized” (信息化) wars.


The Strategic Support Force and the Future of Chinese Information Operations

US Army Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. Army reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The Army and the Army alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the Army, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying Army endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

Army does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Army may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. Army does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Army or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.