Cultural Change in Military Organizations | 2023 | Events

Cultural Change in Military Organizations: Hackers and Warriors in the U.S. Army
Erica Lonergan headshot
Erica Lonergan
Columbia University
September 20, 2023


The growing role of cyberspace in warfighting raises questions about the implications of the interactions between cyber cultures and military cultures. Cyberspace poses unique cultural challenges to military organizations, pitting the decentralized, individualistic, and more risk-acceptant practices that typically constitute cyber cultures against the often highly centralized, group-oriented, and tradition-bound ideas enshrined in many military cultures. We explore the causes, processes, and outcomes of culture change in military organizations in response to cyberspace. Focusing on the U.S. Army as a theory-building case study, we show how a group of “culture entrepreneurs” within the Army attempted to cause cultural change through strategically combining elements of cyber “hacker” culture and the Army’s traditional warfighting culture to define and delimit a new cyber culture within the Army. Overall, we find that cultural change was only partial, resulting in a cyber culture within the Army characterized by internal contradictions. Our findings build on the literature on cultural change. They also suggest broader implications for cyber strategy and military effectiveness.


Dr. Erica Lonergan (née Borghard) is an Assistant Professor in the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Previously, Erica held several positions at the United States Military Academy at West Point. These include serving as an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Social Science and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; a fellow at the Army Cyber Institute; and the Executive Director of the Rupert H. Johnson Grand Strategy Program. She has also held positions as a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Atlantic Council.

Beyond her academic and research appointments, Erica has an extensive background in strategy and policy. Erica currently serves as a member of the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Army War College. Previously, she was a lead writer of the 2023 U.S. Department of Defense Cyber Strategy, as well as the Congressionally-mandated Department of Defense Cyber Posture Review. Prior to that, Erica served as a Senior Director on the U.S. Cyberspace Solarium Commission, a bipartisan Congressional commission established to develop a new strategy and policies to defend the United States in cyberspace. Erica continues to serve as a Senior Advisor to the Cyberspace Solarium Commission 2.0. She also held an appointment as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow, with placement at JPMorgan Chase and U.S. Cyber Command at the Cyber National Mission Force. 

Erica received her PhD in Political Science from Columbia University.