This is part two of a series exploring the differences between military cyber forces, capabilities, mission sets and needs.
In addition to the work roles described in part one of this ongoing series that are distinct and separate from U.S. Cyber Command and the cyber mission force, other mission sets include providing capabilities in cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum to get at organic needs for their respective services.
“As you see the spectrum and the network converging, as you see the integration of the spectrum and the network, information and effects, does that argue then that you need to view cyber as an element of something broader and would you as a result build around CYBERCOM or some other organizational construct, the idea of bringing those functions together,” Cyber Command Commander Adm. Michael Rogers said, when asked if Cyber Command should have a role in EW during an appearance at a conference in San Diego in February. “I would argue the most likely answer over time is yes.”
Within the last few years, at the service level, there has been a convergence between cyber and electronic warfare, which both inherently rely on the electromagnetic spectrum and radio frequency. However, according to some, at the top levels of the Pentagon, these are still thought of in their separate bins.
Bill Leigher, who is director of government cyber solutions at Raytheon, explained that 10 years ago when the military was doing operations with Digital Radio Frequency Memory (typically used to jam signals), at its core it was receiving an incoming radar signal that happens to be a digital packet, changing those ones and zeros and sending it back with a different return than it would’ve had in a normal RF environment. “That to me sounds a lot like cyber warfare. In normal conversation inside of the Pentagon, that’s electronic warfare,” he told C4ISRNET in a recent interview.
Even considering what was done in the counter-IED sphere in Afghanistan within the last decade and a half, “you had to understand how that little computer that you’re trying to influence was intended to operate to be able to make it do something that its intended operator didn’t plan on. It sounds like cyber to me,” he added. “I think the faster that we can get that conversation moving away from a Fort Meade-centric conversation, where it’s still very much driven by intelligence operations, to I’ve got a requirement to do this in my battlespace, do you have a capability to break that software or break that process in a way that helps me conduct my campaign.”
In terms of information operations, Rogers told the Senate Armed Services Committee in early May that this is not currently within their defined set of responsibilities, per se, only offering that the operations against the Islamic State group to combat their online messaging might fall into this bucket.
“If you look at, for example, the way the spectrum and network world are converging, if you look at the way the information dynamic is playing out, one of the questions that we are trying to come to grips with in the department…how are we going to bring electronic warfare, cyber and the information dynamic. It is all blurring in this digital world we live in. And how do we do this in an integrated way,” he told the committee. “Right now we’re not there yet, we’re still trying to figure out the right way forward.”
The Army, the first service to create a specific cyber branch, has worked to merge cyber and electromagnetic activity (CEMA) into traditional and tactical military formations. One of the efforts includes the CEMA Support to Corps and Below pilot, which works to game out how CEMA forces will insert into bridges and what that will look like. Officials have noted that in 2018 the electronic warfare force, or 29 series career field, will become 17s, the career field that is the baseline of cyber. This is a separate effort from Cyber Command and the CMF.
“Cyber protection teams are not organic to our brigades. They are not a maneuver force they are not even embedded with the maneuver force,” Mike Monteleone, acting deputy director of Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate at the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, told C4ISRNET during an interview at their headquarters at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
CPTs are in sanctuary reaching down into networks. The Army is working through how to use their forces organic to the brigade to solve “cyber” problems, but call for help if they need it.
“Right now the Army is trying to figure out how to fight that fight with these folks on high who can reach into the tactical echelons where defenders don’t want anyone in their network,” Monteleone explained. “But when something happens that raises it beyond their skill level or capacity level and the mission says we have to get ourselves back to right quick, that’s what those folks are doing and that’s a difficult piece.”
These forces can also work to generate effects in the radio frequency environment at the tactical level, aiding conventional forces prior to an assault on a town.
Monteleone also noted that the network at the brigade level is defended by organic soldiers — the 25Ds and 255S warrant officers, which are signal soldiers — as the 17 series are not in the brigade.
The Army is also working to integrate what they call expeditionary CEMA teams, Monteleone said, a specialized team that can perform the cyber mission, electronic warfare and other missions to that brigade.
The Marine Corps is also standing up a Marine Expeditionary Forces Information Group, which Maj. Gen. Lori Reynolds, commander of Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command (MARFORCYBER), said is similar to what the Army is doing.
“How do you bring together cyberspace, electronic warfare, information operations, command and control and intelligence functions all together to best support the senior operational commanders out there?” Reynolds said at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space Symposium in April. “We have a path; we have the new Marine Corps structure to get after this. We’re starting to implement that now after a year of designing it.”
Regarding MARFORCYBER’s specific role in the new MEF Information Group, Reynolds said they will provide some talent to it, especially on the defensive side. Reynolds said there is a command-and-control relationship between MARFORCYBER and the companies being built inside the MEFs.
The MIG, as it will now be known, was just officially activated in early July, transitioning from the I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group.
The series continues at What’s the difference between cyber and IT?
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.