WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army will double the size of its active-duty cyber forces by the end of the decade as the Pentagon shifts its focus from counterinsurgency and prepares for future fights with technologically savvy opponents, officials said.
Growth in Cyber Mission Force teams and electronic warfare companies and platoons will boost the strength of the cyber corps from around 3,000 personnel to “just over” 6,000, an Army spokesperson said June 13. Across active duty, reserves and National Guard, the cyber branch will expand to more than 7,000 people, up from 5,000.
“You will continue to see the growth of our cyber branch, as we proliferate cyber-electromagnetic activities, capabilities,” Army Lt. Gen. John Morrison, deputy chief of staff, G-6, said in a discussion with reporters June 9. “Think cyber and electronic warfare, integrated together, throughout all of our tactical formations.”
Morrison is the principal military adviser to the service’s chief of staff, in charge of planning and implementing command, control, communications, cyber operations and networks for Army operations worldwide.
The expected growth comes as the Army grapples with multi-domain operations, across land, air, sea, space and cyber, and gleans valuable adversary information from the bloody battles in Ukraine.
The U.S. reinforced networks in Eastern Europe, both before and after Russia’s invasion, and recently began training Ukrainian troops on Western electronic jamming gear.
“Quite frankly, over the course of the 20 years of conflict, fighting a counterinsurgency, we had divested a significant amount of our electronic warfare capabilities, everything from sensing the environment to electronic protection, and certainly on the electronic attack component of it,” Morrison said. “All you have to do is read open-source news, and you can see that it is a critical component of what is happening over in Europe right now.”
The Army requested $16.6 billion in cyber and IT funding for fiscal 2023. The bulk, roughly $9.8 billion, is flagged for the Army network, a modernization priority spearheaded by the Network Cross-Functional Team and the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical. Some $2 billion is devoted to offensive and defensive cyber operations and cybersecurity research and development.
The service’s overall $178 billion budget blueprint also supports a third multi-domain task force, a flexible, theater-specific unit capable of executing cyber and electronic assignments. Five task forces are ultimately expected.
China is considered the most pressing international threat, ahead of Russia, according to a public summary of the classified 2022 National Defense Strategy. Both powers have invested heavily in cyberspace.
Army CIO Raj Iyer on Thursday told reporters that 2023 is a “year of inflection” when it comes to digital transformation, a time when the service must move past old and comfortable and into new and advantageous.
“We need to make sure that the investments that we have are appropriately aligned to the Army’s priorities,” he said, “and to the DoD’s priorities, quite honestly, through the release of the national defense strategy.”
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.