Information Warfare

Here’s what the Marines’ information command centers will do

This is final installment of a two-part series on Marine Corps information warfare. Part I can be found here.

The Marine Corps is building new information command centers that will help commanders better understand the information environment.

These centers are “always on” command and control nodes that work on understanding, planning and coordinating what the Marines describe as operations in the information environment. The centers work in concert with other Marine Corps Air-Ground Task Force operations in physical domains, the Marine Corps said in written responses to questions from C4ISRNET. The centers will fall beneath the Marine Expeditionary Force Information Groups (MIG).

Officials said the goal of these organizations — and to a larger extent, the MIGs at large — is to show information warfare commanders the threats, vulnerabilities and opportunities that exist in their domain.

Two years ago, Marine Corps officials had no way to know what was happening in that arena because there was no consolidated understanding of day-to-day or real-time actions, officials said. But with new information groups, the Corps will be able to reduce stovepipes and improve collaboration.

The information command centers will exist within the combat operations centers, essentially expeditionary command and control centers, which already provide Marine commanders with a picture of the physical battlespace from air, ground and logistics.

The data for the new centers will come from the Marine Corps Air-Ground task force and will include social media, intelligence, and information on the cyber and electromagnetic spectrum. While officials said they do not have a formal program of record to provide such a common operational picture, they are pursuing a concept they call the Spectrum Services Framework. The idea for the concept is similar to the Army program, the Command Post Computing Environment, which is a web-enabled system that will consolidate mission systems and programs into a single user interface.

Each information group, which is led by a colonel with six subordinate battalion-level commands, is expected to perform seven functions. The are: assuring enterprise command and control, providing information environment battlespace awareness, attacking and exploiting networks, systems and information, informing domestic and international audiences, influencing foreign target audiences, deceiving foreign target audiences and controlling information capabilities, resources and activities.

Each group is expected to eventually number about 3,000 Marines.

Building the groups

Because the future information fight will be different than warfare today, Lt. Gen. Lori Reynolds, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for information, said the force must think about ways to influence adversaries’ behavior or perceptions. To that end, the Corps is working to ingrate more psychological operations, truth telling, public affairs and strategic communications.

“We’ve added [psychological operation] capability to the MEFs to give then an organic ability to battle for influence in a more persistent way,” she said in October. “How we can fight and tell the truth is really important.”

Those capabilities are part of a broader effort to expand the scope of these forces over the next several years.

Part of that initiative includes creating new organizations within existing formations and rebranding existing formations.

For example, the Marines created electronic warfare support teams and an aviation support element under its existing radio battalions. Electronic warfare will be a big portion of fighting in contested information spaces, which Reynolds said the Corps is restoring.

The aviation support element will provide signals intelligence and electronic warfare support in general support to each Marine air wing, the Marines said.

The Marines have also created new defensive cyber teams under the communications battalion called defensive cyber operations-internal defensive measures companies. These teams will synchronize and coordinate defensive cyber efforts to hunt against adversary cyber forces in friendly networks.

Beneath intelligence battalions, the Corps created an open source intelligence and social media activity entity as well as a targeting cell. They also started three new support battalion, communication strategy company and a military information support operations company.

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