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In an evolving battlespace, Army Cyber charging ahead

As the "only service with a cyber branch," Army Cyber Command has seen "stunning changes" on its way to a full range of offensive, defensive and brigade network operations, according to ARCYBER Commander Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon.

"The Army's worked pretty hard on a [cyber-electromagnetic activity] construct…converging cyber and electronic warfare," Cardon told reporters Oct. 4 at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington. "How do you control that? How do you use this? If insurgents are using social media what can be done? So we develop capabilities…to disrupt communications in situations like that."

Cardon pointed to an increasingly contested environment in the network, ground zero for Army cyber operations as the command works to extend cyber support to the corps level and below.

"Offensive cyberspace operations is about taking cyber and creating an effect. And what's important about that is it's not cyber for the sake of cyber, it's cyber for the integration of effects to accomplish an objective," he said. "And defensive cyberspace operations is really having a threat and hunting that threat, and of course protecting the network itself."

Already soldiers are stationed in the theater, creating battlefield effects through cyber capabilities, Cardon added. But it's not as simple as sending a cyber specialist into the field.

"The challenge for us it's not all about the technologies; it's the ability to integrate. It's the ability to craft tactics, techniques and procedures, the organization of constructs by which you do this," he said. "There's a number of policy issues that have to be worked through on this as well. The technology is there; it's how you best incorporate it."

That challenge has been a core part of Joint Task Force Ares, the military's cyber offensive against the Islamic State and the debut mission for U.S. Cyber Command. Pentagon leaders have been frustrated with the slow pace of Ares and the cyber offensive against ISIS, but Cardon emphasized the joint task force's ground-breaking work.

"Before, there was no unit dedicated to this," Cardon said. "The beauty of Ares is…it's brought incredible focus. It sharpens [options and policy], and there's a lot of discussion about what we should and shouldn't do. Every mission we do is breaking new ground and setting the way forward."

As a corollary Cardon compared today's cyber operations to the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"If you look at the evolution of counterterrorism, go back to 2001 and see how hard it was to do things today we take for granted. 'We did a drone strike,' nobody bats an eye," he said. "But if you had said 'drone strike' back in 2001, that's a whole different ball game. And that's kind of how it is today, because it just hasn't been done. Every time you do something, you're setting new norms. And you adjust accordingly based on the effects."

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