8 August 2015

Army experiments now underway that integrate cyber and land operations

Amber Corrin
July 10, 2015 

The Army is conducting a series of experiments to find the best ways to integrate cyber operations into more traditional land operations, including in the formations closest to the ground.
"The Army chief of staff challenged us last year, saying how do we integrate cyberspace operations into unified land operations? Because it really is about cyber not being a thing unto itself – it needs to be fully integrated," said Ronald Pontius, deputy to the commanding general at Army Cyber Command. "How do you have non-kinetic fires along with kinetic fires? How is it fully integrated as you're defending the network, you're operating and you're maneuvering, and it's in a virtual space?"

Speaking on the sidelines of an AUSA event in Arlington, Virginia, Pontius said the experimental initiative known as "cyberspace operations corps and below" started with a first event held in the May-June timeframe with a brigade combat team at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana. The exercise was carried out by the 3rd brigade, 25th infantry, with preparations going back at least 6 months in earlier leadership training programs to gear up for the field experiment.

"Mostly it was their capability and we just augmented with some of our Cyber Mission Force capabilities," he said.

Pontius added that roughly four more experiments are expected over the next 10-12 months, including another at the JRTC, one at the National Training Center and another at an upcoming Army warfighting assessment event.

"That's going to help inform the Army, do we need to make changes in force structure? Maybe, maybe not. Do we need to make adjustments in doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures? How do we really achieve effects for unified land operations?" Pontius said. "It's to try to think through, starting down at the brigade combat team. And what does it mean at the corps division of the combat team, doing integrated cyberspace operations? How do we bring in the signal piece, the cyber piece, the information operations, the electronic warfare – all the planning and executing of operations? Offensive operations, defensive operations – how do you integrate cyber into those?"

The exercises are taking place as the Army continues to build its portion of U.S. Cyber Command's Cyber Mission Forces, for which each military service supplying troops. Eventually the Army will have 1,900 military and civilian troops in the CMF, including 41 teams that will reach full operational capability by the end of fiscal 2017. So far, 25 of those teams have reached initial operating capability, Pontius said.

Eventually, those teams will be joined by 11 more from the Army National Guard and 10 more from the Army Reserves, according to Pontius.

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