Army Cyber Education Enlists Field Operations
Electronic warfare joins the digital realm in a confluence of activities to adjust to evolving threats.
The U.S. Army is consolidating major electronics disciplines in an approach that brings education and operations under a single umbrella. This confluence extends to physical plants as well as organizational charts. For example, the Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon, Georgia, is co-located with its operational counterpart to meld the identities of theory and practice.
“Cyberspace is the great asymmetric equalizer,” says Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr., USA, commander, Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon. “It’s a unique operational environment in which the fight is happening each and every day.”
The key to success is adjusting to the ever-changing threat, the general declares. Over the next 10 years, Fort Gordon will transform completely with state-of-the-art facilities to support the training of cyber, electronic warfare (EW) and signal professionals, he continues. “It’s not just building the new Army Cyber Command complex, [but] it is also building all the facilities on the institutional side that allows us to train the world’s best operators,” he states.
Co-locating the institutional and operational centers allows the Army to operate on the same networks and build lessons learned into both operations and training. “I’m not sure the Army realized how powerful that synergy was going to be when the initial decision was made to move Army [Cyber Command] down to Fort Gordon,” Gen. Morrison offers. “We are already seeing the power of that synergy.”
The expert information exchange between the institutional and operational sides is a two-way street. The institutional side—education and training—can stay abreast of changes on the operational side, with the result being cooperation between the two. He notes that some doctrine writers, along with members of the center’s lessons-learned team, are embedded within the operational force. With new threats and capabilities emerging at an increasingly rapid pace, this teamwork is essential for the institutional side to remain relevant and effective.
“We’re able to be embedded with the operational force, rapidly transfer those lessons learned and [tactics, techniques and procedures] into our training, and that provides a much better operator … for the cyber mission force in general.
“We’re not training a cyber defensive operator or a cyber offensive operator,” Gen. Morrison adds. “We’re training cyber operators.”
He compares this with traditional professional military education that trains some personnel at the lieutenant level, continues at the captain level and progresses to intermediate education at the major level. That conventional approach will not work in the cyber domain, the general says. “[Cyber training] really is a train, employ and train methodology,” he says.
This approach also greatly reduces the long periods of time needed for doctrine updates, which normally take three to five years. This long time span was useless for the cyber domain, but now operations can provide information to shape new doctrine as knowledge emerges.
One vital element of cyber education is to ensure flexibility for the work force. “There is no one-size-fits-all in this domain, and what you don’t want to do is stifle innovation and ingenuity in these talented operators,” Gen. Morrison declares. “And, because the threat is changing so rapidly, we have to have the ability on our side to change rapidly as well. We need to have a common foundation but then have the means to leverage ingenuity and innovation.”
Part of the Army’s consolidation effort entails the service’s decision to merge EW specialists with the cyber branch. “From our perspective, they are inextricably linked,” Gen. Morrison states. In October 2018, EW personnel—officers, warrant officers and noncommissioned officers—will become military occupational specialties (MOS) Series 17 operators—cyber specialists. Eventually, they will become cyber planners in the maneuver force, but for now the cyber center is determining the educational path to transition EW officers to cyber operators. “While [the two disciplines] certainly are interdependent, they have not been treated completely that way in the past, so we’re in the process of bringing those two together,” the general says.
Army Field Manual (FM) 3-12, released in April, represents the original doctrine for cyberspace and EW operations, he continues. It lays out how signal, cyberspace, information operations, fires and EW operators all interact with the right intelligence underpinning them. The general says a field commander must build these cyber electromagnetic activities—known as CEMA—into unit processes, including kinetic effects, to achieve mission success.
The FM describes how this will be achieved, Gen. Morrison explains. What sets it apart is that it focuses on integrating all the related types of operations into a single approach for both kinetic and nonkinetic effects. It is more than just bringing EW into the cyber function, he states. The manual itself is a living document that will constantly be updated as the threat and environment change.
The integration of EW professionals into the cyber branch will solve at least one key cyber problem, Gen. Morrison continues. These EW experts will be the cyber planners inside operational formations, which resolves a gap in cyber operations. This will require establishing training for existing EW professionals in cyberspace operations and planning. The center expects to implement the necessary courses this fall or winter, which will position the cyber force well for its October 2018 MOS 17 deadline.
The cyber center is examining how to define a holistic approach for this integration effort. The activity is less a matter of absorbing EW and more a matter of bringing its officers into the cyber branch, the general says. These professionals still will perform their core competencies in EW, but they also will have the foundation to be cyber planners and operators. Ultimately, this holistic doctrine will allow the Army to influence what adversaries can accomplish on the battlefield.
“It is about establishing an approach that allows us to influence what our adversaries are able to see and do on the battlefield,” Gen. Morrison explains. “Initially, it’s an integrating function—CEMA—but all of [the disciplines and capabilities that support CEMA are] intrinsically linked. We have more mission analysis to do, but it at least gets us started integrating those core competencies because everybody still has a day job.”
He continues that the Army’s Cyber Mission Force teams will reach full operational capability nearly a year ahead of schedule. Some of these teams will have joint assignments, and the Army has several initiatives to determine the cyber footprint inside tactical formations. An initiative known as CEMA Support to Corps and Below at the National Training Center features EW and cyber embedded with information operations capabilities into a brigade. This gives a glimpse of what that footprint actually looks like in a battlefield context, and the most recent pilot program featured reachback capabilities in which effects were applied from Fort Gordon to the combat training center rotation.
But CEMA is more than just an integration concept, the general emphasizes. The Army must have integrated requirements that lead to integrated capabilities. “If you approach cyberspace in a nonintegrated fashion, we will put ourselves at risk,” he declares. “We need capabilities that are integrated from the ground up. We need to take that integration burden off of operational formations and deliver an integrated capability upfront.”
An initiative with the Intelligence Center of Excellence consolidates efforts similar to what the Cyber Center of Excellence is aiming for, he adds. Instead of writing two separate requirements resulting in different capabilities, the two centers are writing one requirement that will lead to integrated capabilities on the back end. “In cyberspace, all those capabilities come together with the appropriate intelligence underpinnings so we can see ourselves and see the enemy,” Gen. Morrison describes.
All these efforts are linked by personnel, the defining element for any force’s effectiveness. Becoming a cyber warrior requires a certain level of technical aptitude, along with the ability to learn, the general points out. The center operates a model to ensure that it selects the right candidates for high-end training that produces skilled cyber operators. It also is working with the Department of the Army and Army Cyber Command on several other initiatives, he says. These include direct commissioning for skill sets the center may not be training for that could fill operational gaps. Other initiatives entail bonuses and different education models that acknowledge cyber’s distinct operational domain.
“We are very cognizant that these skill sets are in demand everywhere because the network is ubiquitous,” he warrants. “We know we have to put different personnel management schema in place, and we are working hard to get that level set.”
Incoming cyber students will benefit from vastly improved physical plants. One year ago, the general offers, the biggest obstacle to effective training was facilities. The center needed a location where it could train cyberspace operators at the appropriate classification level, but all it had were two classrooms for this type of training. “We were muddling through it,” Gen. Morrison relates. “All we were really training was our basic officer leadership course for second lieutenants coming into the Army.”
Today the center has 13 classrooms for teaching at the appropriate classification level, he observes. As a result, it now is educating—Gen. Morrison distinguishes between educating and teaching—all levels of active, Reserve and National Guard soldiers and some joint partners. This represents a significant shift in Fort Gordon’s capacity to train cyber operators, and the general estimates that the center will train more than 600 students by the end of this fiscal year.
Jointness defines the military networking and intelligence underpinning cyberspace operations. With all three activities being inherently joint endeavors, the cyber center is training to joint standards. Some are controlled by U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) to ensure commonality in teaching, which in turn ensures that personnel know how to operate in a joint environment during a conflict, the general points out. Some of the Army’s cyber mission teams already work for other service components or combatant commands.
Representatives from the other services have visited the cyber center, and the center has participated in CYBERCOM’s training forums. In addition, some materiel capability development forums have been launched in which the center is sharing its requirements documents, particularly those that focus on building out defensive cyber operations infrastructure. Gen. Morrison allows that the center also has made changes based on feedback from its counterparts in the other services.
The cyber center is the executive agent, on behalf of the entire joint force, for writing the requirement document for the persistent cyber training environment. It will be a key component of the train-employ-train model, the general notes. This infrastructure will bring all the services into a federated environment that permits continuous training over time, he contends.
Yet the road to all this cyber-inspired integration is not yet clear. The Army still must determine the organizational structure to support both integrated activities and integrated capabilities. “It is an analysis that is ongoing, but we must organize ourselves to support the concept of multidomain battle,” Gen. Morrison offers.