The Marine Corps has begun testing capabilities for its new information warfare units, the next step in a broader force-wide initiative to integrate and develop improved information warfare capabilities.
The Marine Expeditionary Force Information Groups (MIG) organize all information-related capabilities such as cyber, signals intelligence, electronic warfare and information operations under a single entity.
While the MIGs are currently operating within Marine Air Ground Task Forces, the service is looking to test, develop and hone the skills through exercises and training events. These exercises allow the MIGs to integrate with other major subordinate commands.
One example is the Large Scale Exercise 17, which integrated II MIG under II MEF and 2d Marine Division as a way to provide “support to operations in the information environment,” a II MEF spokesman told C4ISRNET via email.
Additionally, II MIG conducted a unit exercise in March 2018 called MIG Field Exercise, which allowed II MIG to train to conduct operations in the information environment during field operations. This exercise included the establishment and operation of the Information Warfare Coordination Center (IWCC), where all operations in the information environment are coordinated and synchronized, the spokesman added.
The training for II MIG introduced the different capabilities it has to other II MEF and Marine units as well as integrating them from the operational to the tactical level, the spokesman said.
“II MIG detachments have been deploying with II MEF units, bringing to bear a wide range of diverse capabilities to enhance each Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) as a 21st century warfighting organization,” a spokesman said.
The cyber dimension
On the cyber front Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command is lending a hand to MIGs to create proficiency within their ranks.
“To the extent that anybody really has proficiency in the cyber domain, it’s coming from MARFORCYBER,” Maj. Gen. Lori Reynolds, commander of MARFORCYBER told C4ISRNET following her appearance on an AFCEA-hosted panel in early April.
“How do we integrate cyber into the other warfighting domains,” she said. “The use case, really, is how can you as a task force or a MEF commander use cyberspace today?”
She said MARFORCYBER is especially helpful in building the expeditionary defensive cyber companies the Marine Corps is looking to stand up, called defensive cyberspace operations-internal defense measures (DCO-IDM) teams. These teams will be separate from the cyber mission force personnel within MARFORCYBER that serve as the dedicated cyber warriors for U.S. Cyber Command.
The personnel from these defensive teams, rather, came from the MEF Reynolds said, adding MARFORCYBER started a pilot to help train the teams and will provide leadership once the companies standup.
MARFORCYBER is also developing a defensive toolkit for the teams similar to those used by its cyber protection teams to provide an organic defensive cyberspace capability to MEF Commanders.
“As an element of the MIG, the DCO-IDM Companies will support the defense of MAGTF key terrain in cyberspace and maintain a commander’s ability to command and control,” a MARFORCYBER spokeswoman told C4ISRNET.
Reynolds also noted they’re trying to teach the MEFs how to call for “cyber fires,” a concept that is not as innate within traditional forces given how relatively new military cyber forces are.
Establishment of cyber career field
The Marines created a new career field specifically for cyber earlier this year, which will directly benefit the new MIG, leaders say.
“As the capacity of the MIGs increase, as evidenced by our request in President’s Budget 2019 to add 1,000 billets related to cyber/electronic warfare/information operations, so will the capability for the MIG to incorporate [operations in the information environment] into the MAGTF,” a Marine Corps spokesman told C4ISRNET.
According to the II MEF spokesman, this new career field will be utilized in the MIG to provide the Marine Corps with a “deliberate, professionalized, and sustainable cyberspace workforce enabling the Marine Corps to conduct cyberspace operations, as directed by” U.S. Cyber Command.
A MARFORCYBER spokeswoman said operating forces such as subordinate commands, MEFs, Marine Expeditionary Units, Marine Expeditionary Brigade and MIGs will get 40 percent while another 40 percent will go to cyber operations forces such as MARFORCYBER and the remaining 20 percent will go to enablers and supporting establishments.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.