WASHINGTON — The speed of information is forcing the Navy to reevaluate whether its needs to assign more decision-making authority lower down the chain of command or risk losing an opportunity to complete a mission or exploit a key vulnerability, the service’s top information warfare commander said Friday.

“Information warfare ... it is all about speed. Speed for advantage,” Vice Adm. Jeffrey Trussler, deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare and director of naval intelligence, said at a virtual event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies Nov. 13.

In today’s modern battlefield, information advantage is forever fleeting, which means naval leaders need to respond faster.

“Windows of opportunity might be very short. The ability to take advantage, when we talk about the information age, it’s all about speed, it’s about the precision of information you get,” Trussler said. “It also requires the speed of decision. It’s not just accumulating a lot of great information. If you don’t act on it in an appropriate amount of time, that decision advantage you may have with the information ... it may just go away.

“As the information flows the opportunity flows. Those windows that can be offered into the physical environment or the RF spectrum … that’s when decisions have to be made and taken advantage of or that information advantage is lost.”

This is one of the reasons the Navy decided to integrate its information functions under a single entity, much like many similar efforts across the services.

As a result, he said the Navy is examining the need to potentially push decision authority to lower down the chain of command to be able to act more quickly.

Trussler said the Navy is thinking through this issue using table top exercises.

“That’s going to cause us to rethink a bit of that delegation of authority, how we’re going to do, in the Navy, distributed maritime operations,” he said.

Moreover, the Navy needs to adopt technological decision aides, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, that can help provide analysts and commanders solutions or courses of action based on the influx of data the military collects.

Trussler also explained the Navy is considering putting information warfare commanders and professionals in its maritime operations centers similar to the way it places information warfare commanders at the carrier strike group level.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday issued a fragmentary order a year ago, which directed the Navy to pilot a dedicated information warfare cell within a maritime operations center at Large Scale Exercise 2020 to more effectively execute space, electronic warfare, information operations and special operations forces into all-domain operations.

The exercise, however, has been put on hold until next year due to the ongoing pandemic caused by the coronavirus.

Trussler said the goal is to build upon the work done at the carrier strike group level and expand that to the rest of the fleet and other commanders.

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

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