Cyber has been thought of as a strategic asset, used as an intelligence-gathering tool and later as a warfighting discipline — following the declaration of cyberspace a domain of warfare and the standup of Cyber Command. Now, the Army is looking to transition that capability to a tactical asset.
The original thinking behind cyber operations was that everything had to be controlled by the president because operations in cyberspace were all thought to shut down the internet, Brig. Gen. J.P. McGee, deputy commanding general for operations at Army Cyber Command, told reporters Feb. 8 during a media roundtable. "That's not what we're finding," McGee noted.
What they're finding is that forces can have a localized effect to accomplish missions, he said, adding that there is undoubtedly a tactical application for cyberspace applications.
The Army has been taking steps toward this paradigm shift since former chief of staff Gen. Ray Odierno directed the start of a pilot program called Cyber Support to Corps and Below, which seeks to integrate cyber effects at the tactical edge by embedding cyber forces with brigade combat teams. These effects have been tested at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California.
The Army is now moving to call the pilot program CEMA Support to Corps and Below. CEMA, or cyber and electromagnetic activities, is the integration of cyberspace operations, information operations and electronic warfare. The new cyber directorate within the Pentagon, headed by Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost and stood up within the last year, is the focal point for this integration.
Frost told reporters that while they were always conducting CEMA operations at the National Training Center, the sexy term at the time was cyber. Over the last few months they recognized they should call it CEMA Support to Corps and Below, she said.
Experiments have sought to determine not only how take strategic forces and assist in the tactical fight, but also what the force structure looks like. In the last two years, with no growth, Frost said they were forced to figure out how to integrate these capabilities into the current force structure. They were trying to determine the organization requirements needed in the field.
Now, she said, the Army is thinking more outside the box as the service considers manpower capabilities and capabilities needed at echelon.
A critical component for bringing situational awareness to commanders will be the ability to map out the cyber and electromagnetic terrain, McGee said. Where is everything, where are friendly wireless points, where are cellphone towers? Then, comes the effects piece: starting to figure out how to access these and deliver effects; for instance, friendly forces could temporarily shut down enemies' internet use.
The Army is also bringing online a new electronic warfare detachmentspecifically for electromagnetic operations. "Effective 1 October 2018, our electronic warfare force, which we call our 29 series career field, will now become 17s, meaning that is the career field that is the baseline of cyber," she said in December announcing the new career field. "We will start training the 29 series this year with a foundation in cyber, signals intelligence and electronic warfare. And then we’ll talk about kind of where the Army’s going with reorganization and operational capability."
The new operational detachment, Frost said, is targeted to come online within the next year. As part of this effort, Frost is working with Army Cyber Command, Forces Command and the Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to see what might be achievable in this space in five years — an aggressive timeline, but an achievable one, Frost contended.
EW has been focused on the protection of patrols and convoys in order to counter IEDs in the last 15 years, McGee noted, but now the role has been expanded to include offensive EW activities, partially induced by the activitiesof Russia in Ukraine.
There is also an authorities
involved, in reference to McGee’s statement that typically operations were approved at the presidential level, with the option to be delegated to the Secretary of Defense.
What authorities and permissions will be pushed out to the tactical commander? McGee asked, teeing up the development of frameworks and models that will allow for a breakdown of authorities based on the effects they would have.
The experiments have looked at current policies and whether they need to go all the way up to the secretary, Frost said. Some of the experimentation is documenting where authorities need to reside based on the type of effects they want to achieve.
The Army is also working with Cyber Command as well as the Marine Corps, given that this involves a land component problem set. With land components moving tactically, what type of capabilities will they need to support ground maneuver? she asked.
McGee added that they are planning an exercise with legal teams that will place them in different tactical scenarios and find out if there are authorities or policy changes needed.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.