• After 10 rotations with brigades, the Army’s Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) teams are hitting their stride, Army experts explain at an Association of the U.S. Army event August 2. Photo credit: Anna Neubauer
     After 10 rotations with brigades, the Army’s Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) teams are hitting their stride, Army experts explain at an Association of the U.S. Army event August 2. Photo credit: Anna Neubauer
  • Newly retired Maj. Gen. Patricia Frost, USA, and Brig. Gen. William Hartman, USA, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Cyber Command, discuss lessons learned from the establishment of the Army’s Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) teams. Photo credit: Anna Neubauer
     Newly retired Maj. Gen. Patricia Frost, USA, and Brig. Gen. William Hartman, USA, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army Cyber Command, discuss lessons learned from the establishment of the Army’s Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) teams. Photo credit: Anna Neubauer
  • Like the assimilation of other weapons, integrating cyber, electronic warfare and information warfare capabilities into the Army requires a warfighter’s mentality, says Col. Paul Stanton, USA, commander, Cyber Protection Brigade (l). Photo credit: Anna Neubauer
     Like the assimilation of other weapons, integrating cyber, electronic warfare and information warfare capabilities into the Army requires a warfighter’s mentality, says Col. Paul Stanton, USA, commander, Cyber Protection Brigade (l). Photo credit: Anna Neubauer

Army CEMA Teams Advance Information, Electronic and Cyber Warfare

August 6, 2018
By Kimberly Underwood
E-mail About the Author

After completing 10 training rotations, the Army's Cyber-Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) teams are building on the experience of readying warfighters in information, electronic and cyber warfare.


The U.S. Army’s efforts to bring electronic warfare, information warfare and cyber capabilities into expeditionary forces is succeeding, Army leaders report. To better support tactical commanders, the service developed a pilot program in 2015 to add such capabilities to brigade combat teams (BCTs). In addition to providing equipment, abilities and authorities to BCTs, the service deployed cyber electromagnetic activities (CEMA) teams to support the initiative known as CEMA Support to Corps and Below (CSCB). The CEMA teams, under the guidance of the U.S. Army Cyber Command, provide training to brigade combat teams (BCTs) through National Training Center (NTC) rotations at exercises and home-base training. So far the CEMA teams have completed 10 rotations at these combat training centers.

With lessons learned, the CSCB effort has been effective, said Army leaders and other experts at the August 2 Association of the U.S. Army Hot Topic event, Cyberspace, the Army Network, and Multi Domain Operations, in Arlington, Virginia.

Brig. Gen. William Hartman, deputy commanding general, Joint Force Headquarters–Cyber, U. S. Army Cyber Command, reported that the cyber mission force has been built and is maturing. Gen. Hartman, who helps inform cyber mission force teams that support the U.S. Central Command, Africa Command, Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has been part of the 10 CEMA team rotations. “From that position I have a pretty good idea of operationally how we're employing the cyber force and how that helps to influence what we were dealing with the CSCB initiative,” he shared.

Leaders learned that in order to execute CEMA operations at the BCT level, the BCTs had to be enabled by proper intelligence, Gen. Hartman said. This included looking at intelligence restrictions. Normally, the Army presents information to units based on what they are working on organically. “And quite honestly, what the brigades had organically wasn't all that robust,” he said. Providing the infrastructure to deliver so-called reach-back support for information from an offensive and defensive cyber standpoint, as well as from an intelligence standpoint, made a difference, the general explained.

Next, the Army learned to enable the BCTs with Army Cyber or Joint Force Headquarters authorities, which informed how to execute troop rotations and build the cycle of warfare with embedded electronic warfare, information warfare and cyber capabilities, he added. The leaders also learned to begin CEMA training before the so-called D-180 planning conference, which is 180 days before a unit's NTC rotation.

Another lesson learned, the general said, was that the CEMA-related equipment that they brought to the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) was outdated, built to fight the last war. “And what I mean by that is it was large,” Gen. Hartman said. “It wasn't mobile. It was built to sit on a FOB [forward operating base] in a fixed location. It wasn't built to maneuver with a BCT.”

That drove modification of some of the existing equipment, as well as a look at commercial-off-the-shelf (COTs) solutions. “That really allowed us to start innovating at a really, really quick pace,” the general noted. Equipment used for the first rotation provided the capability to survey and target at about 900 meters, while solutions after the first several rotations reached five kilometers. Now the BCTs have the equipment to “mesh different sensors together and provide a common operating picture,” the general said.

As a former war planner, Lt. Col. Timothy Bloechl, USA (Ret.), director, Cyber Security Business, Quantum Research International and CyberDx, advised the Army to make sure that electronic warfare, information warfare and cyber capabilities are all integrated into operational plans and concept of operations plans. The Army needs to look at four major functional areas relating to CEMA: identifying threats; protecting data from the threat; protecting the network from disruption; and the informational and operational dominance the Army needs to achieve with electronic warfare, information warfare and cyber, he said.

Frank Pietryka, director of Information Operations, Electronic Warfare Systems, Raytheon, added that CEMA-related training needs to be imbedded into software, akin to how computer games train players. “Most of the successful games don't have external training,” he said. “There are no Powerpoint slides. As you progress in your ability, the game is teaching you.” If warfighters are learning about identifying a new signal, a videogame-like software tool could help train them in their downtime, he suggested. Pietryka also stressed the importance of “learning from those who've gone before you.” Here, the Army could create a method of recording CEMA activities in real-time that would allow warfighters to go back later to perform forensic analysis.

Col. Paul Stanton, USA, commander, Cyber Protection Brigade, explained that the brigade, which fights with 20 cyber protection teams that support tactical systems on the forward edge, requires a warfighters' mentality, even though the group is cyber-centric. Communication must be grounded in warfighters’ vernacular, the language commanders fight in. “We think in terms of mission analysis and we use the military decision-making process, but then we do it in a highly technical sense,” he said.

One of the principle lessons learned from defensive operations in support of BCTs for Col. Stanton is that success comes from advanced planning and preparation. “Much of the defense is done far ahead of time,” he noted. “Just like with defending in the land domain, you do your map reconnaissance, you physically walk the battlespace, you decide where you're going to dig your foxholes.” The same is true for the cyber, Col. Stanton said. 

To former intelligence officer Lt. Col. Wayne Sanders, USA, chief, CEMA CSCB program, Army Cyber Command, the CSCB’s efforts are giving warfighters integrated offensive and defensive cyberspace operations, information warfare and electronic warfare at the tactical edge in support of a direct maneuver commander at the time and tempo that is required. “We’ve done this now 10 times and each time we’ve learned something and we’ve gotten better to be able to provide a more lethal force.”

Building off of the CSCB pilot, the next big step for the Army is the creation of the Cyber Warfare Support Battalion, according to Col. Sanders. Secretary of the Army approval for the cyber warfare support battalion will allow the service to stand up an initial operation capability in starting in FY 2019, he said, to field solutions to gaps identified from the 10 operation rotations at the CSCB. “All of those things have informed the fact that we need to be able to provide expeditionary cyberspace operators, we need to be able to leverage remote capabilities directly to the deployed forces,” the colonel said.

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