Leaders on an Army team that experiments with bringing cyber weapons to the battlefield say their top priority is managing commanders’ expectations.

The Army is testing giving brigade commanders direct authorities of cyber capabilities, a new concept that includes offensive and defensive planners on the brigade staff.

While these planners are experts in cyber and electromagnetic activities, or CEMA, they need to plan and request capabilities from higher echelons. As such, the CEMA planners must have an accurate understanding of the assets they bring.

Trainers focus on “what can they realistically do in a training environment as opposed what they can do on the real side of the house,” Capt. Daniel Oconer, brigade CEMA officer, told Fifth Domain.

“That expectation management is beneficial because you just can’t simply hack a network of an adversary. It’s not that simple, it’s very complex. When you hear offensive cyber, typically your response is ‘Oh, you can do all the stuff you can do in the movies?’ No, you really can’t.”

With that understanding, the CEMA cell can more accurately provide planning options to the brigade staff for pending operations.

Capt. Adam Schinder, expeditionary cyber support detachment commander, said the Army is trying to limit the pains associated with integration by conducting leader engagement sessions prior to arriving at the National Training Center.

Combined with work at the brigade’s home station, this work at home station helps the tactical cyber operators and the brigade gain comfort moving together.

“They want to make sure the cyber individuals understand how to maneuver tactically and that when they take these guys out they’re not going to give away their [operating position] by turning out a [light] or making a bunch of noise,” Matt Funk, the exercise planner, said.

“Our guys don’t have many chances [to maneuver tactically] and a lot of that is based off of talking with the scouts or the armor or the [cavalry] or whoever they’re out with. A lot of that is measured — did they get seen?”

The final component is the technical aspect.

“[It’s] more on that how are they putting themselves situationally on the battlefield as opposed to challenging their technical ability. Did they put themselves in the right location to access that city, did they set themselves up within distance, within line of sight if they need it, but far enough back,” Funk said.

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

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