With cyber playing a critical role in conflict going forward, the Army has begun to recognize the need to have organic cyber planners within a brigade’s staff to offer commanders options related to cyber as well as electronic warfare.
Cyber and Electromagnetic Activities, or CEMA cells, have been stood up in each brigade acting as planners to provide targeting options and capabilities to get at commander objectives just as an artillery planner would offer the commander choices related to their field for a pending operation.
At the tactical level, these two disciplines – cyber and electronic warfare – have become intertwined.
“When I talk to Army commanders and staffs, I try to make the point that I want you to worry less about whether it’s a cyber or EW effect,” Lt. Col. Christopher Walls, deputy director for strategy and policy, at the Army’s Cyber Directorate within the G-3/5/7, said at the C4ISRNET Conference in May.
For example, Walls said for a river crossing mission, a commander might say he needs to buy a few hours to get a battalion across. The CEMA cell, in turn, would look across the capability sets in its portfolio and come up with a course of action.
These cells potentially have the ability to allow the commander to target local internet service providers or local routers and prevent opposing forces from using them. The teams may also have an electronic warfare capability that can jam local area network protocols. Finally, these teams might know where mobile switching centers are by digitally geolocating them allowing physical strikes to take them out, Walls said.
“I don’t want the commander to worry about which of those three things, I just want him to talk to me in terms of desired objective and effects and then us, along with the staff, will determine which capability makes sense,” Walls said. “That’s kind of the way we’re thinking about the tactical fight.”
The best choice comes down to understanding the commander’s objectives and intent in order to offer the best solution.
“What I would do is understand his intent, what effect he wants and what I’ll do is submit that in a formal request and I’ll let the higher echelons determine if they can provide that effect,” Capt. Daniel Oconer, brigade CEMA officer, told C4ISRNET during a recent visit to the National Training Center.
“In general, all I really need to know for my planning processes is understand what the maneuver force wants to do,” he added. “How do tanks and Bradleys [move], how are the troops on the ground moving. Then, what is their mission? What is their objective? What is the commander’s intent? Once I understand that I throw some CEMA flavor, so to say, onto it and then enable them to accomplish their mission.”
Oconer is currently billeted as a 29 series electronic warfare officer. The Army will begin to transition these individuals into the cyber branch, or 17 series, so they will all eventually be cyber planners in the CEMA cell.
“The way that we’re transforming our electronic warfare professionals is they will become cyber operators. They will be the face inside our brigade combat teams and our maneuver formations for cyber operational planning,” Maj. Gen. John Morrison, commander of the Cyber Center of Excellence, said during a May speech. “They’re complimentary. You cannot look at electronic warfare professionals and cyber operators in isolation.”
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.