Hedgecock professional profile

MAJ Kathryn Hedgecock

Assistant Professor of International Affairs



Major Katie Hedgecock is an Assistant Professor of International Affairs at the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY.  Major Hedgecock’s research interests include deterrence and attribution of state-sponsored cyber operations, the impact of emerging technology on the future of warfare, the relationship of public and private entities in cyber defense, and the public response to non-conventional operations short-of-force.  She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. from Stanford University in Political Science, a M.Sc. from the University of Oxford in Russian and East European Studies, and a B.S. from the United States Military Academy.  As an Adjutant General officer, Major Hedgecock has served at the battalion and brigade levels within the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colorado.  

Ongoing Research Projects

“Strategic Attribution: Target State Communication in Response to Cyber Operations” examines the strategic logic of target states who are victims of clandestine and covert state-sponsored cyber operations. The existing literature narrowly focuses on how attribution challenges erode deterrence by punishment by hindering a timely response. I argue that the attribution problem provides the target state increased agency in deciding when, and to what extent, to communicate cyber operations. This discretion allows states flexibility in their response and provides greater control over escalation and domestic political costs at the expense of deterrence by punishment. Additionally, I argue that target states have two distinct decision points, to reveal and to publicly assign blame, leading to three distinct strategies of communication: collusion, disclosure, and public attribution. 

“Responding to Uncertainty: The Importance of Covertness for Public Support of Retaliation to Cyber and Kinetic Attacks.” Under Review.

This paper investigates the escalation dynamics of cyber attacks. Two main theories have been advanced. First, “means-based” theory argues attack type determines response; cyber attacks are less likely to escalate than kinetic attacks. Second, “effects-based” theory argues an attack’s material consequences determine the likelihood of retaliation. We advance a third perspective, arguing that the covertness of an attack has the largest effect on its propensity towards escalation. We identify two characteristics of covertness that affect support for retaliation: the certainty of attribution and its timing. We use a survey experiment to assess public support for retaliation, while varying the means, effects, timing, and attribution certainty of attacks. We find no evidence for the effects-based approach, instead finding high levels of support for retaliation regardless of an attack's scale. We find that the most significant contributor to support for retaliation is an attack's covertness.


“Dyadic Cyber Incident Dataset.” With Ryan Maness, Brandon Valeriano, Ben Jensen and Jose Macias. Available at: https://drryanmaness.wixsite.com/cyberconflict/cyber-conflict-dataset

Publications & Presentations

Publications and Media: 

“Expanding the Dyadic Cyber Incident Dataset,” The Cyber Defense Review. Forthcoming. With Ryan Maness, Brandon Valeriano, Ben Jensen and Jose Macias.

“Engaging with Emerged and Emerging Domains: Cyber, Space, and Technology in the 2022 NATO Strategic Concept,” Defence Studies. With Rose Gottemoeller, Justin Magula, Paul Poast.

“Bargaining with Blood: Russia’s War in Ukraine.” Centre for Security, Diplomacy and Strategy Policy Brief, no 6. (2022). With Robert Person.

“How Facebook’s Outage Could Shape Public Preferences on Cybersecurity Policy." With Lauren Sukin. Lawfare. 11/9/2021.

“American Public Reticent to Retaliate Against SolarWinds Hack.” With Leah Matchett and Lauren Sukin. The National Interest.  1/16/21

“Leveraging Ethical Hacking in Russia: Exploring the Design and Potential of Bug Bounty Programs” The Stanford US-Russia Journal, Vol. 12 No. 1 (2020)


“Responding to Uncertainty: The Importance of Covertness for Public Support of Retaliation to Cyber and Kinetic Attacks.” With Lauren Sukin. Paper presented at American Political Science Association (APSA), October 2021.

“Dynamic Attribution: Target Communication of Cyber Operations.” Paper presented at Midwestern Political Science Association, April 2021.

“Revisiting the China Shock Instrument.” With Christina Toenshoff. Paper presented at Midwestern Political Science Association, April 2021.

George P. Schultz presents “Governance in an Emerging New World: Emerging Technology and America’s National Security.” Panelist. Hoover Institution. 2/25/19.