WASHINGTON — One of the biggest undertakings for the Army’s cyber operational and training arms in the last two years is shifting the service’s thinking and approach to the broader concept of information advantage. Now, the service is on the heels of making that concept official doctrine.
“I think the biggest progress is we got all of the senior officers in the Army together to discuss this,” said Maj. Gen. Neil Hersey, the outgoing commander of the Cyber Center of Excellence, which leads the doctrine portion for the Army in this area.
“We laid everything out and we gained agreement on the framework that will lead to doctrine being written, which is in progress now. That will create information advantage within FM 3.0, which is the Army’s operations manual. It will be a major element synchronized with the other elements of combat power,” he told C4ISRNET during a June interview about the Army’s progress over the last 18 months to develop the concept of information advantage.
Hersey relinquished command June 30 and heads to Army Cyber Command to serve as the deputy commanding general for operations. Brig. Gen. Paul Stanton has taken the reins of the cyber center.
About three years ago, the Army’s cyber branch folded in electronic warfare and information operations, with the schoolhouse taking in those disciplines as well. The various armed services have each said there’s a need to integrate information-related capabilities to better compete with sophisticated nations such as Russia and China. Now the Army is trying to unify these disparate activities that existed separately.
“Looking at all those capabilities and putting it in a position to where a commander can synchronize all those things together but also make them part of the operation from the very beginning, from the planning level of any operation just like the other maneuver systems that we’re used to that we’ve been employing for many, many years,” Hersey said. “Looking at it broadly, we’ve used the analogy that we don’t want to have any orphans in the tactical operations center. Every capability should be tied to an operating construct. We didn’t create another domain, so you still have the five domains, which includes cyberspace as a domain, but we looked at what are those things that need to be done in information advantage broadly, and we agreed and determined that there were five major tasks or subordinate elements of information advantage.”
Those five elements include enabling decision-making; protecting friendly information; informing and educating domestic audiences; informing and influencing international audiences; and conducting information warfare.
However, there still isn’t an advocate on the Army staff for information advantage similar to how intelligence or operations are represented by the G-2 and G-3, respectively. However, Hersey acknowledged, that’s the ultimate place the Army wants to get to, but the service first needs a bridging strategy.
As he sees it, that bridging strategy will work to leverage the G-39 beneath the G-3, which handles information operations, then grow it from there.
“We’re war gaming some options for what formations would look like to be able to execute information advantage activities at echelon,” he said.
Eventually that could mature into an equal staff element within, Hersey said, noting that the Army has been using the nomenclature “7.”
“You could have a G-7 at a higher echelon that is your information advantage expert who has an equal place at the table with the G-2, the G-3, the G-6 [command, control, communications and networks] and others, and a direct line to the commander.”
The electronic warfare force has also recently seen progress, with a boost in personnel projected in the next few years. But those forces still don’t have the necessary equipment, such as jamming capabilities as well as electromagnetic spectrum command-and-control tools.
The Army, as part of difficult prioritization decisions it made for budgetary reasons, eliminated procurement funding this year for its new aerial jamming pod, while prototyping efforts for that and other large, ground-based systems are ongoing.
“There is a recognition that we, the Army, have some work to do on the capability front for electronic warfare,” Hersey said. “We do have commitment from Army senior leaders that electronic warfare capability is needed, and we want to make sure that when our trained soldiers go out to their formations, they can get the reps and sets — and with kit.”
He added that the Army has a good idea of what capabilities will be required for operators. In the near term, he said, the service plans to ensure soldiers get their hands on systems — either in a simulated environment or in an exercise — while the longer-term fix is to continue development and eventually field systems such as the Terrestrial Layer System. the TLS is to be the first ground-based integrated signals intelligence, electronic warfare and cyber capability for brigades mounted on a Stryker vehicle. Another system the service hopes to field in the long term is the Terrestrial Layer System-Echelons Above Brigade, which will provide commanders at echelons above brigade the ability to sense, provide improved precision geolocation, conduct non-kinetic fires and support kinetic targeting for broad targets unreachable by the TLS-Brigade Combat Team capability. Leaders have said first units equipped for each will be fiscal 2022 and 2024, respectively.
While these systems are mostly focused on larger echelons, Hersey said soldiers already have some capabilities, citing VROD and VMAX; the former surveys the field from an electromagnetic perspective, and the latter provides a limited electronic attack capability. He also mentioned commercial off-the-shelf tools used by the special operations community.
“We’ve been linking up our electronic warfare-trained soldiers with those formations to get reps on that lighter, mobile, lower-echelon kit to provide them feedback but also to get them hands-on execution capability and practice.”
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.