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Here’s some key strategy tips for debating the NSDA Nov/Dec 2019 Public Forum Topic – Resolved: The benefits of the United States federal government’s use of offensive cyber operations outweigh the harms. Want more evidence and strategy tips? We’re excited to bring you our Public Forum Sourcebook for the NSDA 2019-20 November/December topic on Offensive Cyber Operations! Check out our brief here!

Tip #1: Understand Your Burden

Typically, PF resolutions fall into two main categories: Policy and Fact. Whereas Policy motions call for action to be taken by some agent (e.g. The European Union should join the Belt and Road Initiative), Fact motions are concerned with a testable aspect of reality which does not necessarily call for action. The Nov/Dec topic falls into the latter category. To be clear, neither side is advocating for action, but rather is concerned with whether the benefits of status quo (check the verb tense!) US federal government offensive cyber operations outweigh the harms. As a result, understanding status quo policy, along with solid impact analysis will be key to win. There is certainly room for you to project your arguments toward future outcomes, but be careful you understand your burden and stick to it throughout the debate. Arguments that “status quo policy can be reformed” fall into dangerous territory.

Tip #2: Define Your Terms Well

There exists a very fine line between “offensive cyber operations” and “defensive cyber operations”. Clearly producing definitions from reliable sources, such as the US federal government, will be key to counter abusive definitions which may seek to argue that cyber operations used in traditionally defensive contexts. Defining “offensive cyber operations” is important as well because these definitions concern themselves with both the intent and outcome of the operations, which may or may not coincide with one another.

Tip #3: Have Solid Empirics and Framework

Yes, framework is critical for debaters because it allows them to adequately weigh impacts under clear standards and mechanisms. On this topic, however, framework is also going to be important as debaters must determine how the resolution is affirmed or negated and what types of proof actually are compelling. How does a judge weigh an impact scenario which may or may not be thwarted by offensive cyber operations against past successes (or failures) of offensive cyber operations? Does a judge consider failures (or successes) of offensive cyber operations as the norm, or as outliers? Successful debaters will be clear about what kind of proof leads to the ballot, and why that type of proof is important. Consequently, having solid empirical analysis of harms and successes of actual US offensive cyber operations is going to separate the most successful teams from average teams.

There’s a lot more to explore in this topic, so good luck in your researching and debating!

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