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Army wades into experimental cyber warfare

October 15, 2015 (Photo Credit: Rob Curtis/Staff)

The Army is testing out the best ways to integrate cyber warfare into its operations, this year launching a series of experiments in offensive and defensive cyber operations at training centers across the country.

The experiments provide support to corps level and below, and involve brigade combat teams rotating through training centers such as the National Training Center in California, according to Army officials.

"The direction we received from the previous Army Chief of Staff, GEN Ray Odierno, in 2014 was…he wanted specifically to be working cyber as a maneuver and how we truly integrate that with our tactical forces," Ron Pontius, deputy to the commanding general at Army Cyber Command, told reporters Oct. 14 in a briefing at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C. "What we've really worked [on] is: How do we really begin to bring the full spectrum — the DODIN, the network operations piece along with offensive and defensive cyberspace capabilities? How do you really integrate cyber, signal, electronic warfare, information operations?"

Army Cyber Command is coordinating with Training and Doctrine Command and Army Forces Command to carry out the experiments, the first one involving members of the Third Brigade/25th Infantry division at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in May. The Army also did an exercise with the Ranger regiment and has an upcoming rotation at the National Training Center in January.

"We don't just deliver a capability without having a good foundation, so Army Cyber, with the operational force, is actually spending significant effort working with that brigade before they leave home station," said MG Stephen Fogarty, commanding general of the Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, Georgia. "I think what was really important is in the [brigade combat team], for the first time, they had the capability to defend their network. It's a defense in depth."

The Army will conduct "five or six" of these experiments over a 15-month period, then incorporate findings into the service's Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership & Education, Personnel, and Facilities (DOTMILPF), Pontius said.

What emerges from the exercises is subject to evolve over time — and that's something the Army really needs to get ahead of the curve and take advantage of emerging technologies and strategies, including open-source, according to Army Cyber Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Harris.

"Ultimately we're doing the pilots, trying to figure out what the team needs to look like, what kind of capabilities they need," Harris said. "The end state, the goal, is the same as it is for any other offensive capabilities: to deny, destroy, degrade, disrupt and deceive. And we have those capabilities that are out there, open source, right now. The fact that we're not using them is because we've [inhibited] ourselves while we try to figure out how to build our force."

See the latest news from AUSA 2015 in our Show Reporter.  

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