As peer competitors around the world continue to challenge the U.S. and its allies with rapidly evolving capabilities, the military must align itself to fight in this new world. As such, the Navy is standing up the Information Warfighting Development Center.
The IWDC will posture the Navy's information warfare sailors to be better trained, better equipped and better skilled to fight in this domain, just like the Navy has organized its forces in other domains.
"I consider it to be the most important thing we do for information warfare this year," Rear Adm. Matthew Kohler, commander of Naval Information Forces Command, said Feb. 23 at the West 2017 conference in San Diego. "It will be that significant for us in terms of what it does for our business. It's absolutely necessary for us to fight in a contested environment, for naval forces that are fighting a distributed way."
Since around 2009, the Navy has organized and aggregated information warfare, information operations and information dominance under three distinct pillars, Vice Adm. Jan Tighe, deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare and director of naval intelligence, said during the conference. Those pillars are battle space awareness, assured command and control, and integrated fires.
The new IWDC will bring these three key areas together, Kohler said. Its key functions, he continued, will include, among other tasks, training IW in the advanced war fighting tactics, techniques and procedures across all of the Navy’s mission areas within information warfare to include command and control, cyberspace operations, intelligence operations, electronic warfare, information operations and space.
This training will take place at the individual, unit, integrated and joint level. The IWDC will be responsible for developing, validating, standardizing, publishing and revising these TTPs as well as establishing its own subject matter experts within aforementioned areas.
The IWDC will train IW war fighters to use new techniques and get them fielded more quickly in order to not just operate systems, but to fight the systems in advance, which will require these advanced TTPs, Kohler said.
While Russia has demonstrated advanced information and influence operations bandwidth and capacity — exemplified by the alleged interference in the presidential election and the formal standing up of a new branch of its militarywith information warfare troops — the IWDC will not directly be taking on these adversaries. Rather, it is a man, train and equip organization tasked with ensuring operational outfits directly confronting those challenges will be ready for that fight, Kohler said.
Intelligence and cyber units direct their operating forces to actively defend networks and conduct those types of operations, Kohler clarified. While commanders in these disciplines are focused on those types of operations, if they determine people need to be better trained in these areas, they don’t have to stop what they’re doing. They can turn to Kohler and have him coordinate training.
Also at the AFCEA West conference, Vice Adm. Michael Gilday, commander, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/10
Fleet, noted the difficult problem Russia poses. He explained the country has a much lower threshold of behavior, allowing it to employ offensive and information operations in places the U.S. would never consider.
Gilday also said that in the fight against the Islamic State group, the U.S. is focused on counter messaging, going after messengers and messages themselves.
Rear Adm. Nancy Norton, director of warfare integration for information warfare (OPNAV N2N6F) and deputy director, Navy cybersecurity, described the standing up of the IWDC in 2017 as an important initiative to start development of concepts of operations, or CONOPs, and TTPs for information warfare.
"I think that’s going to be really exciting; it’s going to be something we all really need to push for and make as successful as we possibly can," she said.
The IWDC will reach initial operational capability in early March with a full operational capability date set two years from now, setting it for roughly spring of 2019. At FOC, Kohler said he expects the skill sets for the IWDC to include war fighting effectiveness assessments and force performance standards to identify and mitigate gaps across platforms.
"It will make good information warfare professionals better," he said.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.