Navy Adopts Broad Approach to Information Warfare

February 18, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman
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It now is on equal footing with other warfighting domains.


The U.S. Navy is implementing new technologies and capabilities as it embraces information warfare (IW) as a warfighting domain. These include incorporating IW on existing platforms and greatly expanding disciplines such as electromagnetic maneuver warfare.

Vice Adm. Ted N. Branch, USN, deputy chief of naval operations (CNO) for IW and director of naval intelligence, focused on IW as a key element of the CNO’s new strategy for the Navy in his opening keynote address for day two of West 2016, being held in San Diego February 17-19. Noting that adversaries have eliminated or will eliminate the technological edge held by U.S. forces, he offered that part of the Navy’s IW effort is to prepare forces to operate in a contested environment.

“Victory in the information age will depend on commanders being able to act without all the information being available to them,” he noted.

The Navy is “well down the path” to making information warfare analogous to the other warfighting domains, the admiral continued. That is vital to Navy operations. “If you don’t do information warfare correctly, it doesn’t matter what you do in the other warfighting domains,” he stated.

“Information is a warfare domain and cyber is as important as the next missile or platform … it’s now commander’s business, requires an all-hands effort and a cultural change throughout the Defense Department,” the admiral continued. It is being introduced into nontraditional platforms wherever useful. “If an unmanned system does [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], you should think IW,” he said.

The Navy’s Cybersafe effort is underway with organizations ready to design their programs to meet Cybersafe goals. However, it will take several years. In comparison, the Subsafe effort initiated in the wake of the Thresher disaster took 20 years. The cyber supply chain remains a challenge. “Overseas components may not be unsafe; we just can’t guarantee they will be safe from a cybersecurity perspective,” Adm. Branch said.

The Navy also is expanding its electromagnetic maneuver warfare capability, Adm. Branch stated. It will include both space and cyberspace. Overall, Navy space has been an under-resourced, under-emphasized area for too long, he said, adding that the Navy is boosting its space efforts. Meanwhile, “We are the best hitchhiker in space, especially with the Air Force,” he allowed.

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