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Redefining the Battlespace

December 2010
By Kent R. Schneider, SIGNAL Magazine

I spent some time last month in London at the AFCEA TechNet International event run by our AFCEA Europe office. This conference dealt with integrating the cyber domain into our concept of battlespace. It occurred to me during this discussion that our understanding of battlespace has changed fundamentally even before we add the cyber domain. Would we have considered the WorldTradeCenter in New York part of the battlespace before 9/11? Would we have considered the London Underground part of the battlespace before 7/7? Probably not. In this age of asymmetric warfare, the boundaries of the physical battlespace are unclear. In this context, adding the cyber domain, which is broader than the Internet, is perhaps not as much of a stretch as it might have been prior to this redefinition of the physical battlespace.

The U.S. Navy has chosen to get in front of the move to integrate information sharing in the U.S. Defense Department. While we do not seem to have a problem with including cyber in our perception of the battlespace, we are still a long way from rationalizing the organizations, roles and disciplines in the cyber domain. As a result, transparent information sharing remains a challenge. Remember that it was in 1986 that the Goldwater-Nichols Act became law, requiring the Defense Department to operate jointly. One can argue that, as a result, operations are more integrated on a joint basis today, personnel are better trained to operate jointly, and information is shared across the department better than at any time in the past. But today, if you ask senior government officials in the United States or elsewhere what the biggest challenges are, somewhere high on their list will be the ability to share information effectively in a coalition and interagency environment. Because that is the way we typically operate, our inability to accomplish this remains a significant obstacle to effective operations.

The Navy, understanding this challenge, has chosen to consolidate and integrate all of its information functions by creating the Information Dominance Corps, which embraces all of the information functions across the service. To lead this effort, the chief of naval operations combined the N-2 intelligence function with the N-6 combat information function, putting Vice Adm. Jack Dorsett, USN, in place as the deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance and director of naval intelligence. This move to the N-2/N-6 consolidated the personnel from N-2, N-6 and the information components of other elements of the Navy.

With this leadership, the Navy has begun operationalizing the concept and restructuring the information/cyber structures throughout the service. This tighter alignment of the information functions in every aspect of the Navy improves planning, asset allocation and, most importantly, effective information sharing.

In every other way, the Navy is fully engaged in joint cyber structures. The creation of the 10th Fleet establishes the Navy cyber command that becomes the naval component of the U.S. Cyber Command. Integration across the information/cyber domain within the Navy allows the sea service to coordinate and integrate all of its cyber assets and to promote better information sharing, even across functional domains—something every nation in the world is seeking to achieve.

Can the Navy lead the Defense Department and other defense and security organizations globally in such integration? Only time will tell. We certainly are seeing similar initiatives to streamline the information/cyber functions in NATO, in the Defense Department and at the national level in many countries. The Navy has set the example in its profound realignment.

In September, AFCEA, working with the Naval Intelligence Professionals (NIP), helped the Navy conduct its first Information Dominance Industry Day to share progress and obtain input from industry. A second industry day will be presented in March 2011. Anyone who has not fully understood what the Navy has accomplished and what it plans to do with information dominance should attend this second industry day. While the implementations will be different as other organizations attempt to get their arms around the cyber integration problem, lessons learned from the Navy effort will be instructive. I am convinced the Navy has done the right thing, and that other organizations in the defense and security communities are going to need to determine how they will address this challenge.