Government leaders are telling industry they need help with integration as the Department of Defense and individual services push toward a unifying approach to information warfare.
Information warfare combines several types of capabilities, including cyber, intelligence, electronic warfare, information operations, psychological operations and military deception. On a high-tempo battlefield, military leaders expect to face against a near peer or peer adversary. There, one-off solutions, systems that only provide one function, or those that can’t feed information to others won’t cut it. Systems must be multi-functional and be able to easily communicate with other equipment and do so across services.
“A networked force, that’s been our problem for years. Having built a lot of military systems, a lot in C4 and mission command, battle command, we build them and buy them in stovepipes. Then we think of integration and connecting after the fact,” Greg Wenzel, executive vice president at Booz Allen, told C4ISRNET. “My whole view … networking the force really is probably the best thing to achieve overmatch against our adversaries.”
Much of this networking revolves around new concepts DoD is experimenting with to be better prepared to fight in the information environment through multi domain operations or through Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2). The former aims to seamlessly integrate the capabilities of each domain of warfare – land, sea, air, space and cyber – at will. It also aims to integrate systems and capabilities across the services under a common framework to rapidly share data.
While not an official program, JADC2 is more of a framework for the services to build equipment.
“It’s more likely a mish-mash of service level agreements, pre-scripted architecting and interoperability mandates that you got to be in keeping with those in order to play in the environment,” Bill Bender, senior vice president of strategic accounts and government relations at Leidos, told C4ISRNET of JADC2. “It’s going to take a long journey to get there because, oh by the way, we’re a very legacy force and … a limited amount of technology has the interoperability that is absolutely required for that mission to become a reality.”
The “information warfare” nomenclature can feel nebulous and hard to understand for industry officials that provide solutions to the Pentagon.
“It’s a pretty broad definition. I think it’s something that the DoD is struggling with, that’s what we’re struggling with in industry and it also makes it challenging because no one really buys equipment that way,” Anthony Nigara, vice president for strategy and business development in L3Harris Space & Airborne Systems, said. “No one really buys stuff to an abstract term like information warfare.”
Others agreed that the term “information warfare” may be too broad, an issue that’s further complicated as each service tackles information warfare in their own way.
Most members of industry C4ISRNET talked with on the need to integrate described the key theme of a more networked force as a unifying way to think about the new push to information warfare.
“There’s a lot of discussions about the Joint All Domain Operations or the multidomain operations. When we look at that and we want to say ‘okay, what is information warfare really mean to everyone?” Steven Allen, director of information operations and spectrum convergence at Lockheed Martin rotary and mission systems, told C4ISRNET. “We look at it as how can we get the right information to warfighters in order to fight or how do we get the right information for them to plan? How do we move all that data across whether it’s different levels of security or different levels of the warfighting and the data associated with it.”
Others expressed the need for contractors to be flexible with how DoD is describing its needs.
“Industry has learned to be flexible in responding to messaging calling for new situational awareness capabilities while other established capabilities were being mandated for use in cyber exercises,” Jay Porter, director of programs at Raytheon Intelligence & Space, said.
The push to a more information warfare-centric force under the guise of larger concepts to defeat adversaries is pushing the DoD as a whole to fight in a more joint manner.
Paul Welch, vice president and division manager for the Air Force and defense agencies portfolio at Leidos, explained that there’s a consistent view by the services and the department that they must integrate operations within the broad umbrella of activities called information warfare just as they’re integrating warfighting capabilities between the services and across the domains. This goes beyond merely deconflicting activities or cooperation, but must encompass true integration of combat capabilities.
Some members of industry described this idea as one part of convergence.
“When I talk about convergence, my observation is there is a convergence in terms of a family of technologies and of a family of challenge problems and how do they come together,” Ravi Ravichandran, chief technology officer of the intelligence and security sector at BAE, told C4ISRNET.
Ravichandran provided five specific challenge problems the military may have in which a married suite of technologies can help provide an advantage against adversaries.
They include JADC2, overmatch or the notion of assembling technologies in a way better than enemies, joint fires where one service’s sensors may be acquiring a target and passing that target off to another service to prosecute it, sensing in the electromagnetic spectrum and strategic mobility to get forces and resources to a particular place at a particular time.
Similarly, Welch provided the notional example of an F-35 flying over an area, seeing something on its sensors and sending that information to either an Army unit, a carrier strike group, a Marine Corps unit, or even a coalition partner to seamlessly and rapidly understand the information and act upon it.
These sensors must be incorporated into a joint kill chain that can be acted upon, coordinated and closed by any service at any time.
Allen noted that when looking at information warfare, his business is examining how to take a variety of information from sensor information to human information to movement information and pull it all together.
“There’s a lot of discussion on [artificial intelligence] AI and machine learning and it’s very, very important, but there’s also important aspects of that, which is hey what’s the technology to help the AI, what’s that data that’s going to help them,” he said. “We tend to look very closely with the customers on how do we really shape that in terms of the information you’re getting and how much more can you do for the warfighter.”
By bringing all these together, ultimately, it’s about providing warfighters with the situational awareness, command and control and information they need to make decisions and cause the necessary effects, be it cyber C4ISR, intelligence or electronic warfare, Nigara said.
Porter said at Raytheon’s Intelligence & Space outfit, they view information warfare as “the unification of offensive and defensive cyber missions, electronic warfare and information operations within the battlespace.” Integrating EW and IO with cyber will allow forces to take advantage of a broader set of data to enable high-confidence decision-making in real time, he added, which is particularly important in the multi-domain information environment to influence or degrade adversary decision making.
From a Navy perspective, the ability to share data rapidly across a distributed force within the Navy’s distributed maritime operations concept will be critical for ensuring success.
“We will certainly have to include the mechanisms with which we share information, data and fuse that data from node to node. When I say node to node, a node may be a ship, a node may be an unmanned vehicle and a node may be a shore based facility,” Kev Hays, director of information warfare programs at Northrop Grumman, who mostly supports the Navy, said regarding areas Northrop is investing. “Linking all those participants into a network … is critically important. We have quite a bit of technology we’re investing in to help communicate point to point and over the horizon and a low probability of intercept and low probability of detection fashion.”
Ultimately, the information space is about affecting the adversary’s cognitive space, they said.
“When it comes to information warfare, it’s a lot less tangible … It’s not tank on tank anymore. You’re trying to affect people’s perception,” James Montgomery, capture strategy lead for information operations and spectrum convergence at Lockheed Martin rotary and mission systems, told C4ISRNET.
As a result, he said, it is critical to take the time with the customer to truly understand the concepts and capabilities and how they all fit together in order to best support them.
“Really spending time with them [the customer] and understanding what it is that they’re attempting to get at. It helps us better shape the requirements but it also helps us better understand what is it they’re asking for,” he said. “When you’re moving forward and attempting to come together with both a software hardware based solution to something, it takes a lot of talking time and a lot of touch time with that customer to understand where their head’s at.”
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.