WASHINGTON — Russia’s alleged invasion of Ukraine and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula have served as wake up calls for the U.S. Army. The service is now considering integrating all information-related capabilities down to the tactical commander, on par with what has been observed from adversaries, such as Russia.
“As we watch them operate in that region, we’ve seen them actually synchronize, probably not integrate, but synchronize all aspects of information warfare,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Fogarty, commander of Army Cyber Command, said during a recent speech. “It’s intelligence, it’s military deception, psychological operations, information operations, cyber, electronic warfare. They’ve been able to link that to [a] very capable fires complex.”
Russia and China have shown they understand the importance of controlling information as well as denying adversaries advantages afforded by GPS. Moreover, Russia combines this under a multibillion-dollar program of record, Fogarty said, comparing it to how lethargic the U.S. procurement system can be in delivering capabilities to soldiers on the front lines.
Fogarty is pushing for the Army to provide these information capabilities at the division and brigade levels. These capabilities, he told Defense News sister brand C4ISRNET, will be integrated within new cyber electromagnetic activities cells that the Army is standing up within the brigades to act as planners for cyber, electronic warfare and information operations to enable full-spectrum cyber and full-spectrum information operations.
Fogarty told reporters earlier in August that the Army views influence operations as part of precision fires, which could include information ops, cyber ops or cyber defense, or blocking adversarial access to friendly networks.
The renewed focus on influence and information operations, which the Army and the military writ large did away with at the end of the Cold War, has been welcomed by many.
“Gen. Fogarty’s words … were brilliant — talking about how the Army had started off with cyber, then they bring in electronic warfare and now they had to start to bring in information operations and information warfare in to sort of make a whole,” said Laurie Moe Buckhout, president and CEO of The Corvus Group and a former electronic warfare officer in the Army.
Buckhout said the Army needs to observe what near-peer adversaries are doing as examples of how Russia and China are using different centers of gravity to achieve dominance in the information space.
In terms of where information or influence operations could be headed, Lt. Gen. Theodore Martin, deputy commanding general of Training and Doctrine Command, posited during an August presentation that as a platoon-sized unit moves toward its objective, perhaps it will send an email to the enemy commander alleging the commander’s spouse is involved in an extramarital affair or the commander’s bank account has been emptied — this all to create additional distractions.
These are the types of timing and tempo operations that led to Russia’s success in Ukraine.
According to Col. Steve Rehn, the Army manager for cyber capabilities, Russia was able to simultaneously use EW attacks while exploiting social media, sending emails to enemy units and conducting denial-of-service attacks during maneuvers on the ground.
“That’s a fairly complex operation from a higher level, even from a command level,” he said in August.
These are the types of tactical-level operations the Army hopes to synchronize as it moves toward a larger vision of multidomain operations and contesting near peers in a world of great power competition.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.