Members of Congress have been hammering cyber leaders from the Department of Defense and the intelligence community for answers on how to combat Russian information operations.
Part of the issue, some believe, is the organization of the military.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., noted how disorganized the Pentagon is when it comes to information warfare or information operations, during a March 13 Senate Armed Services Cyber Subcommittee hearing. He mentioned how cyber, electronic warfare and information operations are organized across different lines.
“Why does this matter? Because Russia’s information operations troops conduct technical and cognitive operations in an integrated way,” he said. “We conduct information operations in support of commanders at the tactical level. Adversaries are coming at us at the strategic level in so-called peacetime.”
The panel’s witnesses, while explaining the ongoing operations in the information space, conceded that some of these operations are taking place more at the tactical and operational level as opposed to the strategic level.
“We have conducted information operations” against ISIS, Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of Army Cyber Command said. He added that this is the piece of the cyber counter offensive against ISIS he’s learned the most about. “Being able to provide a message, to amplify a message, to impact our adversaries.”
Nakasone noted that while these efforts have gone beyond disrupting ISIS’s networks, the operations are probably taking place more at the tactical level. This is a good starting point for beginning such a campaign, he said, by understanding how to provide that message, the infrastructure needed and the capabilities that are going to underpin the messaging.
In response to further prodding, Nakasone said there are likely lessons from the counter-ISIS cyberoffensive that can be applied to information warfare threat from Russia, but was hesitant to “apply a broad brush.”
However, Nelson was still concerned that while all the functions of information warfare are integrated at the service level, why are they separated at the unified command level and at the Pentagon.
Nakasone indicated a recent provision in the most recent annual defense policy bill might get at this issue of bringing everything together for a singular look.
The provision, requires DoD to implement a plan for a strategy for operations in the information environment with a review of DoD’s current strategy in this space dated for 2016.
Nakasone said he believes the Pentagon is working on this currently.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.