Information Operations Training Focuses on Agility

June 2005
By Col. William Tyndall, USA, and Lt. Col. Tim Mishkofski, USA, (Ret.)

Lt. Col. Jerry Dempsey, USAF (l), chief, information operations branch, combined information operations directorate, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), and Lt. Col. Pierre Blais, RCAF, deputy chief, information operations division, NORAD J-3, discuss information operations training for exercise Fabric Indian. Training in information operations at NORAD and NORTHCOM is designed to address the commands’ distinct areas of responsibility as well as homeland defense and military assistance to civil authority missions.
Uniting endeavors strengthens cybersecurity.

The two military commands primarily responsible for homeland defense are coordinating their efforts on the new front lines of cyberspace. Because both offensive and defensive information operations are an integral part of protecting North America, the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command are training their experts in combined environments to ensure that they can act swiftly when responding to threats or planning strategies.

When Northern Command (NORTHCOM) was established in October 2002 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, information operations were identified as one of its homeland defense support missions, and they remain one of the command’s essential tasks. However, because both NORTHCOM’s and the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s (NORAD’s) areas of operation include citizens of the United States as well as of Canada, some of NORTHCOM’s missions are filtered through the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, whereas NORAD’s missions are outlined by bi-national treaty. As a result, the combined information operations directorate, known as NORAD-NORTHCOM/J-39 (N-NC/J-39), must demonstrate considerable flexibility in adapting computer network operations, operations security, military deception, electronic warfare and psychological operations.

Traditionally, adapting information operations training to NORTHCOM operations required three steps: forming a combined, seamless NORAD-NORTHCOM organization; initiating a robust exercise plan encompassing both the strategic theater and operational levels of war; and training at the combatant command, NORAD region, and NORTHCOM component and joint task force levels.

Today, NORAD and NORTHCOM share the same organization for information operations. The structure of both commands’ joint mission essential task lists closely parallels each other. The directorate’s intelligence officer is Canadian. The NORAD operational watch often takes place in the Cheyenne Mountain operations center. The NORTHCOM battle staff, using the adaptive headquarters model, centers on its joint operations group (JOG), including the domestic warning center for current operations and current plans. Information operations specialists staff the JOG as well as the future plans organization known as the joint planning group (JPG).

Critical to the success of NORTHCOM’s information operations campaign is the information synchronization group (ISG), a multidisciplinary information-based planning and action group designed to leverage command, control, communications, computers and intelligence decision superiority capabilities. The ISG concept was developed and proven as part of Millennium Challenge 2002.

As a result of the work accomplished to date, the NORAD-NORTHCOM information operations directorate has been organized into six branches: command, intelligence, defensive information operations, offensive information operations, training and exercise integration, and special information operations.

Information operations training itself has evolved from trying to engage a generic, broad front to focusing on all-domain homeland defense and military assistance to civil authorities efforts. During exercise Amalgam Virgo/ Determined Promise last August, NORTHCOM conducted network defense, operations security and effects coordination using information operations. In addition, information operations were a supporting task for exercise Ardent Sentry, a U.S. Defense Department event that supported the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Top Officials 3 exercise that took place this spring.

“Since we stood up NORTHCOM, our exercise and training focus has sharpened. Exercises like Unified Defense and Determined Promise have evolved into combined NORAD-NORTHCOM exercises Ardent Sentry and Vigilant Shield,” explains Col. Gene Pino, USMC (Ret.), director of training and exercises, NORAD and NORTHCOM.

NORTHCOM contingencies and exercises occur against the backdrop of NORAD’s bi-national command mission to defend the airspace of Canada and the United States. When training requires a NORAD organization, personnel from the entire directorate are pulled together for the task. A Canadian deputy and a U.S. deputy represent the director for day-to-day activities and in crisis-response planning to ensure unity of command.

Beginning in 2004, NORTHCOM’s unit training exercises have been coordinated with NORAD exercises. NORAD’s Vigilant Overview ran simultaneously with NORTHCOM’s Unified Defense 2004. Last August, Determined Promise 2004 and NORAD’s Amalgam Virgo 2004 also occurred concurrently.

The NORAD-NORTHCOM exercise plan is a robust combination that culminates in spring and autumn exercises that primarily focus on either homeland defense or military assistance to civil authorities. In all cases, the two commands’ efforts support a lead federal agency such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In addition, the Defense Department lead for information operations for the Global Information Grid is U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Forces Headquarters-Information Operations unit.

NORTHCOM was formed in response to the informed will of U.S. citizens that indicated a need for a strategic center of gravity. Working closely with public affairs and legal experts, the command built training objectives that could be executed in the NORTHCOM and NORAD area of responsibility. 

“NORAD-NORTHCOM information operations are part of the larger context of the instant-information age we live in,” says Lt. Cmdr. Curtis Jenkins, USNR, information operations specialist, NORAD-NORTHCOM. “Everything we do in our mission can be found near-instantly on the Web. We have to always be aware that we’re on stage and convey the message of ‘deter, prevent, defeat’ in everything we do.”

Using a tool called the Information Operations Navigator, Lois Miller, information operations exercise planner, combined information operations directorate, NORAD and NORTHCOM, and Maj. Brad Arnett, USA, NORTHCOM planner, Joint Information Operations Center, review an information operations exercise objective for planning. The tool provides users with a standardized, structured methodology for generating the information operations sections of the objective for planning in a Joint Operational and Planning and Execution System, or JOPES, format.
Current capstone training objectives to support the command mission essential task of conducting theater information operations include defending the network via information assurance and computer network defense operations, protecting the commander’s critical information list through proactive operations security measures, conducting offensive information operations, and protecting the commander’s freedom of decision through the employment of special information operations capabilities.

Building a training plan to support both the strategic theater task and the component and region tasks required a level “one-through-three” plan to train individuals, staff organizations and adaptive headquarters elements. Individual training focused on schoolhouse training, such as the Joint Forces Staff College’s Joint Information Warfare Staff and Operations course; service offerings including the Army’s Functional Area 30 information operations course; and the creation of a common “how we fight” battle book for individual use. Staff organizations conduct training in intelligence, defensive information operations, offensive information operations and special information operations. For contingencies, the JOG, JPG and ISG conduct periodic training.

Although Joint Publication 3-13 specifies that computer network attack, military deception, psychological operations and electronic warfare-attack are part of the joint targeting process in accordance with Joint Publication 3-60, NORTHCOM may not conduct a deception operation within its area of responsibility. However, NORTHCOM may plan for effects that occur outside the area. Through the Combined Effects Coordination Board (CECB), another combatant command may strike a target designated by NORAD or NORTHCOM. This effects-based effort takes into account all the legal limitations of the homeland defense mission. It also causes several staff processes to coalesce, providing the type of synergy that might be expected in a regional combatant command.

To bring the entire information operations effort together, training is planned at the combatant command, NORAD region, and NORTHCOM component and joint task force levels. For 2004, this presented a challenge as command relationships and command-linked tasks were worked out.

NORAD components met with NORAD-NORTHCOM information operations planners almost immediately after NORTHCOM was created. Although not yet fully integrated into planning, NORTHCOM components met with N-NC/J-39 information operations and U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) planners to build a command-linked task from NORTHCOM to JFCOM for service components. The results in United Defense 2003 and Determined Promise 2003 led NORTHCOM to retain information operations as part of its joint mission essential task list.

Challenges still abound on the horizon. For instance, NORTHCOM does not have an official CECB in accordance with Joint Publication 3-60. Canada has a slightly different approach to information operations doctrine that requires every NORTHCOM information operations decision to be weighed against its impact on the Canadian ally. The universal joint task list includes a comparable contingent of supporting and command-linked tasks for information operations at the strategic level. However, at the operational level, many information operations tasks are tied directly to the joint targeting process, which is a concept that is still in development within the command’s area of responsibility.

In addition, the National Guard Bureau in each U.S. state and territory already defends information systems and protects information within the United States. When planning for information operations activities for Joint Task Force–Alaska, for example, NORTHCOM has to ensure a linkage to the Alaska National Guard. The same is true for the Alaska NORAD region.

The most recent NORAD-NORTHCOM information operations training took place in April 2005 as part of NORAD-NORTHCOM exercise Ardent Sentry 2005, and training will occur again in November with exercise Vigilant Shield 2006. Information operations training objective vignettes will be targeted at a training audience of senior leaders at the headquarters, regions, components and joint task forces focusing on domains for information superiority as defined in Joint Vision 2020 with information operations play primarily injected through intelligence and media. Offensive information operations and perception management vignettes are closely coordinated with the NORAD-NORTHCOM public affairs offices, legal experts and the Department of Homeland Security.


Col. William Tyndall, USA, is a domestic events officer in the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center, North American Aerospace Defense Command/U.S. Northern Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. Lt. Col. Tim Mishkofski, USA (Ret.), is an information operations specialist for the North American Aerospace Defense Command/U.S. Northern Command director of operations.


Web Resources
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North American Aerospace Defense Command:
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