Navy to Expand Information Dominance Capabilities

March 6, 2014
By Henry S. Kenyon

New commands will expand the service's ability to conduct multispectrum warfare.

The U.S. Navy is working to incorporate information dominance as a key part of its future warfighting tool kit. As a part of this ongoing effort, the sea service is standing up a new force dedicated to information dominance, which will tap into many cutting edge capabilities such as cyberwarfare and unmanned systems.

The seeds for the current undertaking began when the Navy merged its information dominance capabilities several years ago, said Vice Adm. Ted N. Branch, USN, deputy chief of naval operations and director of naval intelligence. Speaking at an event hosted by AFCEA’s Northern Virginia Chapter on February 21, he noted that the Navy’s advantage in this area comes from its communications and decision making systems—capabilities that help maximize military potential. “Information dominance is about warfighting. It’s about warfighting in the information age,” Adm. Branch shared.

Adm. Branch observed that many personnel in the military, especially those in information dominance roles, do not see themselves as warriors. “But we have many people [among them] who could kill you with a click,” he said.

The Navy is working on expanding its information dominance corps to help define new tactics and techniques for information warfare. But while this group holds promise, Adm. Branch notes that it is still a work in progress. “It’s not cooked yet,” he said.

As a part of these efforts, the Navy will stand up a dedicated information dominance force this October. The service will work with the information dominance board to plan out this process and to move more resources to this force, explained the admiral.

In addition to cyberwarfare, the new information dominance force will support the Navy’s networks and a variety of other capabilities. Adm. Branch noted that any operational/skills group in the service with its own network will potentially have a line into the new force. This is because information dominance is a more holistic practice that includes more than just cyberspace to encompass areas such as meteorology and oceanography.

But a solid information dominance capability relies on effective command and control. The Navy’s assured command and control chain depends on a resilient and secure information infrastructure. One way to achieve this goal is through reliable and secure networks, Adm. Branch explained.

To work toward this goal, the Navy already is moving to its Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) architecture. While NGEN supports shore-based operations, the service also is deploying its Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) program to link its ships into its global data network, the admiral said. An important part of CANES will consist of multiband data terminals that will provide warfighters with assured communications and information sharing capabilities.

Another important pillar of the Navy’s network modernization efforts is battlespace awareness, Adm. Branch said. But it must be more than reactive, he maintained. The Navy is working toward a predictive system that operates beyond mere intelligence gathering to provide warfighters with a picture of both the physical and spectrum aspects of the battlespace, he said.

Unmanned systems will play an important part in providing a better picture of that future battlespace, Adm. Branch said. One of those systems is the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) platform, which will help support the Navy’s manned air wings. There is great potential for UCLASS, he said, adding that many potential future capabilities for the system are “still a gleam in people’s eyes.”

The Navy is also working on seaborne, or rather, undersea unmanned platforms such as the Large Diameter Underwater Vehicle (LDUV). The LDUV boasts long range and long duration, allowing it to perform a variety of reconnaissance and intelligence gathering missions. Like UCLASS, the potential for LDUV “is eye watering,” he said.

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