The Department of Defense is continuing to ingrate cyber planning and effects into traditional military operations as Cyber Command nears elevation to a unified combatant command.

One critical step in this process has been the creation of cyber planning cells locally at the combatant command headquarters. DoD leaders now say they hope to have these teams fully staffed in the next five years.

These cells, known as cyber operations-integrated planning elements, will include small staffs to help better coordinate offensive and defensive cyber effects. They are necessary because combatant commands don’t necessarily have cyber skill sets or planners at the staff level to help with campaign planning.

As envisioned, the planning elements will work with combatant commands as a liaison of sorts forward from the remote cyber operators to integrate cyber into operations and contingency plans providing information on the types of capabilities cyber forces can provide.

These planning cells will be staffed by personnel from the service cyber components under a construct known as Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber. JFHQ-Cyber is one of three headquarters elements of Cyber Command and provides planning, targeting, intelligence and cyber support to combatant commands they support.

Each of the heads of the various service cyber components are dual-hatted as commander of the various JFHQ-Cybers.

This provides a connective tissue of sorts between Cyber Command and the combatant commands.

During written congressional testimony March 13, Vice Adm. Michael Gilday, commander of 10th Fleet/Fleet Cyber Command, said his organization is in the process of standing up three planning elements. While the JFHQ-C Fleet Cyber supports Pacific Command and Southern Command, Gilday said they are also standing up a planning element for U.S. Forces Korea, a sub-unified command of Pacific Command designed to deter aggression and defend South Korea.

“These Elements will also fully integrate cyberspace into battle plans, ensuring timing and tempo are set by the commanders for use of cyberspace effects in the field based on their operational scheme of maneuver,” Gilday wrote. He added that they will be “working with our combatant commanders to project power in, from and through cyberspace.”

Maj. Gen. Loretta Reynolds, commander of Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command, during the same congressional hearing, said as part of its planning element in support of U.S. Special Operations Command, they have hired civilians across the Special Operations Command enterprise who are providing cyber intelligence and planning support for joint cyber fires.

In addition to the five Marines at SOCOM headquarters, Reynolds wrote in prepared testimony, they began to build the planning elements across SOCOM organizations worldwide and look to complete the civilian hiring for a total 26 civilians by October.

Moreover, she wrote they are working within the Marine Corps to increase uniformed planning element staff with an increase of 13 Marines required to meet staffing goal by the end of FY20.

Gilday noted at Joint Service Academy Cybersecurity Summit March 20 at the Naval Academy that there’s much greater overall integration of cyber forces with traditional forces such as deploying carrier strike groups, amphibious readiness groups, our deploying Army brigades and Marine Expeditionary Units.

“We’ve come a long way,” Gilday said. But “I think that there’s still a ways to go as we try to normalize cyberspace operations with the rest of the force.”

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

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