In a step above other regional commands, Army Central (ARCENT) has taken the Army's cyberspace strategy and run with it, creating its own follow on strategy called the FY 17/18 USARCENT Cyberspace Strategy.

Directly nested with the Army Cyberspace Strategy for unified land operations in 2025, the ARCENT strategy encompasses all three mission sets of cyberspace operations: Offensive, defensive and DoD information network operations, Lt. Col. Dwyke Bidjou, deputy chief of staff of information operations for ARCENT told Fifth Domain in a recent interview.

The Army's cyberspace strategy, signed in January 2016 by Army chief of staff, similarly identifies lines of effort in building the workforce, operations, capability development, facility systems and infrastructure and partnerships, laying out the larger lines of effort with major objectives that lays out what the Army needs to do, Ronald Pontius, deputy to the commanding general of Army Cyber Command said in an August interview.

The intent in developing ARCENT's cyberspace strategy, Bidjou said, was to immediately address operational challenges and help inform the Army. He noted as the Army's strategy plans out to 2025, there are significant gaps in between now and then. While cyber is a buzzword today, Bidjou said ARCENT also wanted to ensure the staff was educated and informed on specific requirements, clarifying that cyber is not just the jobs of the G-2 (intelligence), G-3 (operations) or G-6 (information), but for the entire staff.

Bidjou, in describing the genesis of the strategy, identified ARCENT's absence to the ongoing efforts of the Army and DoD to allocate resources, develop the workforce, develop a cyberspace career field, stand up the Cyber Center of Excellence, develop Army Cyber Command and develop command and control relationships as an operational gap.

Bidjou identified five specific lines of effort the strategy addresses, which track closely with the Army's strategy:

  • Build an ARCENT cyber workforce;
  • Conduct cyberspace operations;
  • Identify and develop cyberspace capabilities;
  • Invest in facilities, systems and infrastructure; and
  • Develop partnerships.

In building a cyber workforce, Bidjou said this surrounds the organic ARCENT workforce – not necessarily the cyber forces nestled within Army Cyber Command – to identify soldiers currently working in some cyberspace capacity to bridge the gap until cyber soldiers are specifically assigned to ARCENT.

"The development of the ARCENT staff’s understanding of what cyberspace operations require is essential to the execution of the strategy," Bidjou said.

The ARCENT staff must understand what the teams within Army Cyber Command – cyber protection teams, national mission teams, cyber support teams – do to better understand their role in the event of a crisis, Bidjou added. "The staff needs to understand what capacities are organic and how to request capabilities needed," he said.

Similarly, when conducting cyberspace operations – line of effort number two – it is important the force understands operations aren’t just G-6 efforts per se, but there must be coordination within the entire workforce to understand the components an operation involves, be it offensive, defensive or a DoDIN operation. ARCENT is working with CENTCOM, Headquarters of the Army, the Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Training and Doctrine command to refine the Army service component command requirements for cyber operations.

These requirements have been loosely defined at this point at TRADOC, Bidjou said, and being sent to theater, which involves partnerships, logistical support, engagements and mission command.

In conducting operations, partnerships are critical.

"In essence, we cannot conduct operations of any type without coordination and support from our regional partners," Bidjou said. "Cyberspace should not be any different from a traditional lethal operation."

As such, discussions with regional partners must concern their primary focus areas and concerns in cyberspace as well as intelligence sharing and deconfliction.

While Bidjou did not mention any current threats by name despite the ongoing counter-Islamic State group efforts within CENTCOM’s area of responsibility – which include a large cyber component– as well as Iran’s growing cyber capabilities, he mentioned the operational tempo CENTCOM has maintained for 17 years.

Boasting that CENTCOM has been the most engaged geographic command, leaders will be challenged with force drawdown, operational tempo and requirements of cyberspace operations presents one of the primary challenges, Bidjou said.

Going forward, ARCENT is developing a white paper, positioned for an October 2017 release, that captures the findings to educate the Army on the challenges of executing cyberspace operations at the ASCC level. That white paper will be essential, Bidjou asserted, and will hopefully provide some visibility at that higher level.

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

More In Cyber