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The Cyber Army of the Future

October 2011
By Rita Boland and Maryann Lawlor, SIGNAL Magazine
E-mail About the Author

 

Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, the chief information officer (CIO)/G-6 of the U.S. Army, tells listeners at LandWarNet 2011 about the network of 2020 and how budgets, personnel and technology will affect it. She also discusses the Army’s new plans for integrating technical advancements into the network.

Commanding generals from around the service and beyond discuss changes underway and the effects on personnel.

Leaders of the U.S. Army’s cybercommunity have outlined plans for the network of 2020. Reductions in force, cuts to budgets and advances in technology all will play roles in shaping upcoming cyberoperations. The Army also is revolutionizing the way it approaches integration to the network, moving testing out of war zones and into exercises that simulate current battlefield conditions.

These points were outlined during LandWarNet 2011, held in Tampa, Florida, in August. The Army wrapped up its first Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) in July. Held at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, the event enabled programs of record and other technologies to be examined by a full Brigade Combat Team. Army and industry leaders talked excitedly about the NIE, touting it as a way to integrate technologies into the network more quickly and to receive rapid feedback from warfighters.

Moving forward, the event will take place two times a year in April and October. Each will focus on certain capability sets based on which units will deploy during two-year time frames. Current projections will focus on 2013-2014 deployments; the Army will not procure the same technologies for those headed overseas later. “They’ll want something else,” explained Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, chief information officer (CIO)/G-6 of the Army. The service branch will release requirements to which developers can respond if they want to participate.

Gen. Lawrence also addressed upcoming personnel drawdowns. Current estimates call for reducing the number of contractors by 30 percent without any replacement by military or government employees. According to the Army’s current plan, only the officer corps would face reduction through means other than attrition; however, more drastic cut mandates could alter future decisions. To ensure soldiers still can access the connectivity and data they will require, leaders are examining new ways to approach modernizing the network because, Gen. Lawrence said, “The issue is ... we’ve not been at war when we tried to draw down our forces.”

She outlined several actions planned to enhance services to soldiers through their networks. The first step toward the Army network of 2020 is an infrastructure that accepts a single identification—the Common Access Card—and brings soldiers directly to their desktops no matter where they are and allows access to necessary applications. The general identified several technologies she sees as key for the network in 2020, including optical infrastructure, voice over Internet protocol and video streaming. Security also will continue to be critical, with the Army building it into every touch point.

Switching from challenges to successes, Gen. Lawrence touted the Afghan Mission Network as a major game changer. Featuring qualities the Army is seeking across its connections, the network enables stateside units that are preparing to deploy to access all the latest operational information and intelligence.

To provide cutting-edge technologies, the Army will have to re-evaluate its approach to procurement. “We can’t chase [the industry curve],” Gen. Lawrence said. “We’ll never get the funding. We have to just eliminate it.” The key to that, she added, is the common operating environment. The general emphasized that the Army no longer can turn the network upside down to accommodate new advances.

 

Lt. Gen. Rhett Hernandez, USA, the commanding general of the U.S Army Cyber Command/2nd Army, shares his vision for the cyber Army of 2020 and how his command will play into it. More and more, capabilities will focus on the cutting edge, but people—not technology—will be the key to success.

Lt. Gen. Rhett Hernandez, USA, the commanding general of the U.S Army Cyber Command/2nd Army, also spoke of the future force, explaining his organization’s role in building the cyber Army of 2020. In addition to high-level activities, the command is growing its subordinate cyber brigade, which will serve as the operational arm of the Army’s cyber mission.

During its 10-month existence, the command has started to develop a strategic plan for Army cyber 2020. Gen. Hernandez explained that cyber already has a role in all operations, and the Army is incorporating cyberoperations into military exercises and conducting a cyber assessment as part of the Network 2020 Strategic Plan. Moving forward, cyberspace must extend U.S. and allied mission-command capabilities while denying the same to others. The future also will involve an increased emphasis on the tactical edge.

According to the general, nine years from now the Army must integrate full-spectrum cyber capabilities, ensure mission command and achieve cyber domain operational freedom, which means the Army will operate in the cyber domain with the same level of freedom it now has in the land domain. “The future battlefield will be as much defined by cyber as it is enabled by its effects,” Gen. Hernandez said. Other necessary actions include operationalizing cyber, growing Army capacity and capabilities, and recruiting, developing and maintaining cyber professionals.

The general outlined plans to create a world-class cyberoperations center that will replicate cyberthreats as well as establish cybercenters to support mission control, defend the network and extend capabilities. “A key to success in this line of effort is adequate and rigorous leadership development,” he said, later adding, “People are the centerpiece in all we do.”

The command is examining strategies to obtain the human capital it requires. This involves examining industry initiatives for recruitment and retention as well as leveraging talent across the active-duty military, National Guard, Army Reserve, civilian personnel and contractors. In addition, Gen. Hernandez referenced “green page” pilots. The efforts aim to create directories of people and their skills. Initiated in other parts of the Army, Gen. Hernandez said he would like to find ways to leverage the pages across Army cyber.

Adm. William McRaven, USN, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, also shared his perspectives on his command and cyber. To complete objectives successfully, special operations forces (SOF) rely heavily on strong communications and operate their own network, which has 54 garrison nodes, five strategic entry points and 59,000 global users operating in about 70 countries at any given time. Over the network each day, personnel exchange 321,000 emails, conduct 210 video teleconferences (VTCs) and make more than 400,000 telephone calls. “[There is] a fairly robust enterprise network out there,” the admiral said (SIGNAL Magazine, July 2011, page 51).

 

Adm. William McRaven, USN, commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, adds a joint perspective to the 2011 LandWarNet conference. He outlines the network used by special operations forces and explains what his organization needs in terms of cybertechnologies.

Adm. McRaven presented his communications needs, first listing a universal domain. He wants to tag information instead of concentrating on the protocols of the devices passing it. He also asked for improved reception, citing a need for closed-caption-type capabilities in VTCs that would spell out what a speaker is saying in different languages. He explained that advanced VTC technology is critical so leaders can understand body language and context. In addition, the admiral stated needs for an enterprise cloud, a full-spectrum search engine and ironclad protection solutions. Adm. McRaven also referenced two other areas of importance to his mission. “En route communications are absolutely critical,” he stated, as is interoperability between SOF and general purpose forces.

Teri Takai, the CIO of the U.S. Defense Department, elucidated the roles of her agency as well, explaining that duties include looking for efficiencies across the department, leading the way for effective spectrum allocation and working with international partners to create standards. Takai emphasized the need for an integrated look at technology across the military.

A change Takai is working to address involves adding commercial devices into the military network. “Network” is a tricky term; the department has more than 15,000 of them along with more than 772 data centers. In fiscal year 2012, the budget for defense information technology exceeds $38 billion. Takai said that within that budget there is room to obtain what the military needs to complete its missions.

Other challenges include the explosion of available technologies, shrinking budgets and growing cyberthreats. Though many view those as competing interests, Takai asserted that solutions can apply to them all. Data center consolidation, for example, can improve efficiency and effectiveness. When discussing the cyberthreat, Takai pointed out three areas of concern: exploitation, disruption and destruction. By consolidating and standardizing across the military, the Defense Department can develop better strategies to enhance security, Takai stated. Beyond the military networks, major concerns include risks to the supply chain, cyber attacks on the defense industrial base and critical infrastructure protection.

A major theme throughout Takai’s address and the entire conference was the need for and migration to enterprise email. Identification management, she said, provides the department with an opportunity to give everyone an identity that links to necessary information. Takai said that enterprise email also is important because it will drive forward other technologies attractive to the Defense Department, such as text, instant messaging and SharePoint.

Mobile is another driving factor behind CIO efforts, and the organization is embarking on programs to ease the integration of this capability into the force. One pilot will deliver parameters on how to use and secure devices, but not which tools to purchase. Another effort will examine how to put commercial devices onto classified networks.

Lt. Gen. Carroll Pollett, USA, director, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), said that no matter what the network or the devices connecting to it, “At the end of the day, it’s all about effects.” Focusing his remarks on the enterprise, the general said that leaders and users will have several issues to address, including how to leverage the classified and unclassified domains to create a common operational picture.

 

During her LandWarNet address, Defense Department CIO Teri Takai emphasizes the need for an enterprise email system across the military. According to her, the capability will enable the department to link people to necessary information. It also will move forward other technologies, such as chat and instant messaging.

The need for wartime information sharing is unlikely to diminish. “I think in the future we’re going to be in persistent conflict,” Gen. Pollett stated. Terrorism and the cyber domain have redefined persistent operations and what the military must do to have positive effects and to protect forces, he explained. Added to these challenges is the concern over resource constraints, which will force defense officials to gain efficiencies without compromising missions. “We no longer can afford to compete with each other,” the general said about the various military organizations. Saving money by reducing duplicate technologies will help the military fund resources necessary for the tactical edge.

“The strategic world has collapsed inside the tactical world and we’re never going back,” Gen. Pollett explained. The tactical edge must inform the design of the network. In addition, the network needs capacity and diversity. The general said that diversity is more important to him because the connections have to have survivability.

Converging enterprise service centers will help users reach information they need from anywhere in the world. DISA has placed 53 content delivery nodes around the world to move content forward. Gen. Pollett emphasized the need for common standards so troops can access what they need. He encouraged information technology professionals to work on enabling identification, access-management and attribution-based capabilities. Other necessary technologies include joint search engines and video collaboration.

Finding solutions often involves creativity. When the surge in Afghanistan took place, the theater was satellite communications-centric. The Army worked to outsource services to DISA, which put in place four terrestrial links. Before that, no terrestrial links existed, according to the general. In addition, DISA helped reposition commercial and military satellites to support operations. Gen. Pollett also praised the Afghan Mission Network, saying it can serve as a template for future environments.

Turning his attention to enterprise email, he said leadership is working to address multiple directories, trying to protect identities and striving to implement standards. “This is going to redefine the way the department uses enterprise infrastructure in terms of what we do,” Gen. Pollett explained. Already more than 90,000 soldiers and 2,000 other troops have migrated to the enterprise. Three combatant commands, DISA and the Defense Logistics Agency are in the process of moving accounts to the enterprise email.

One unsuspected statement during the conference had little to do with either technology or the military. Officials announced that 2011 marked the final LandWarNet. It will be replaced with three regionally dispersed smaller events. Renamed TechNet Land Forces, the conferences will take place in Tucson in March, Tampa in July and Baltimore in August, focusing on security and network operations, joint and coalition issues, and cyber, respectively.

Industry leaders who spoke during the conference focused on the need for partnerships, the advanced pace of technology and how the public and private sectors face many of the same problems.

Photography courtesy of U.S. Army

WEB RESOURCES
LandWarNet 2011: www.afcea.org/events/landwarnet/11
Network Integration Evaluation: www.bctmod.army.mil/nie_focus/index.html
Army Chief Information Officer/G-6: http://ciog6.army.mil
U.S. Army Cyber Command/2nd Army: www.arcyber.army.mil

 

Comments

Good plan, except for cutting 30% of contractors, generally the most technically proficient and highly skilled personnel in this field. At a time when there will be major technical upgrades, evolutions in all aspects of the networks and an emphasis on a quality cyber force, is it really wise to jettison 30% of your most knowledgeable experts? This will make our enemies happy for sure.

If it is all about cutting back to save money, then how about revamping the way we do our budgets? Example: my division had a 625K budget this year. We spent about 400K of that. The other 225K wasn't needed but if we didn't spend it then we would be penalized with a drastically reduced budget next year. Nobody can predict what you'll need in the future so we wanted to guarantee our budget next wasn't cut. We ended up spending the remaining 225K on unnecessary and unneeded equipment. That money could have gone to hiring 2 new contractors to alleviate our manning shortage instead. But that's not how the government works. We must spend the fully allocated budgets or be penalized. Its crazy! Wouldnt it be better to give incentives for saving money that could in turn be used in areas such as RETAINING OUR MOST QUALIFIED PEOPLE!

The government and especially the DOD like to over-use recently coined terms like CyberOps and synergy. Instead they should start using an old term called Common Sense.

By GS13

Thank you for your comments. You bring up some good points and I think this is an area of concern for many professionalson both the government and industry sides. Perhaps someone in government or other contractors in our readership would like to respond?

By Rita Boland