• Following her tenure as commander of Office of Naval Intelligence, Vice Adm. Kelly Aeschbach, USN, stepped into the role of commander of Naval Information Forces in May. Here the vice admiral is pictured speaking during a ceremony in May 2021 with now-retired Vice Adm. Brian Brown, USN, looking on. Credit: U.S. Navy/Robert Fluegel
     Following her tenure as commander of Office of Naval Intelligence, Vice Adm. Kelly Aeschbach, USN, stepped into the role of commander of Naval Information Forces in May. Here the vice admiral is pictured speaking during a ceremony in May 2021 with now-retired Vice Adm. Brian Brown, USN, looking on. Credit: U.S. Navy/Robert Fluegel

Information Warfare is 'Indispensable' to Naval Operations

June 30, 2021
By Kimberly Underwood
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The United States must continue to advance information operations in order to prevail in long term strategic competition, leader says.


Three years ago, the Navy established its Information Warfare Enterprise and took steps to bolster its information warfare, or IW, given rising threats from adversaries. To support persistent surveillance of the maritime and information battle space, the service is now supplying IW expertise within meteorology, oceanography, intelligence, cyber, cryptology, network, space and electromagnetic spectrum operations, reported Vice Adm. Kelly Aeschbach, USN, commander, Naval Information Forces.

“Today our IW community is integrated into all fleet operations and is expanding its integration with our Marine and Coast Guard partners,” Adm. Aeschbach said, speaking June 30 at the virtual West 2021 conference cosponsored by the U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA. “Information warfare is providing a decisive advantage for our commanders and ensuring our forces get from data to decision faster than our adversaries.”

Having oversight of information warfare issues across the Navy, the IW Enterprise also is responsible for enabling readiness, advancing capabilities, and integrating IW across submarines, ships, carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups, as well as ashore at operational IW commands, also known as IW platforms, she explained.

In three short years, the IW Enterprise has seen some early success through the establishment of a Tri-Service IW Integration cross functional team, which supports the delivery of IW in all domains. Naval Information Forces also created an IW Platform Shore modernization program, a robust five-year plan to support nine IW platform categories and 23 IW platform classes across more than 260 shore commands, the vice admiral said. The enterprise also is informing the modernization of command, control, communications, computers, combat systems and intelligence capabilities.

“And the IW Enterprise is helping remove barriers to implementation of the Fleet Cyber Command-led initiative to field an integrated Navy operations command and control system,” Adm. Aeschbach continued.

In addition, Naval Information Forces is growing its Naval Information Warfighting Development Center and Training Group. The center, led by Rear Adm. Mike Vernazza, USN, is developing the associated tactics, techniques and procedures for all IW mission areas. “They have established a premier program to train tactical experts in information warfare,” she noted. “This warfare tactics instructor program is building the foundation of expertise that will sustain our edge over our adversaries.” Meanwhile, the Naval Information Warfare Training Group, led by Capt. Chris Kopach, USN, is supplying unit-level IW training.

The service also is pursuing an IW commander construct. Presently, all operational carrier strike groups have a board-screened post major command information warfare community captain on board as the IW commander. In addition, the service is continuing to install IW commanders onboard the amphibious ready groups, a measure first tested in 2019.

“Our challenge in this area is establishing the permanent billet base on the staffs to sustain the initiative,” Adm. Aeschbach said. “Looking at what we learned from IW at the tactical level, I do think there is tremendous value in having one senior IW officer on the MOC [Maritime Operations Centers] staff serving in a similar role of lead IW integrator at the operational level. Again, the challenge here is establishing the permanent billet base.”

Lastly, the vice admiral called for the service to implement live, virtual, constructive (LVC) IW training to foster understanding of current and future integration of realistic IW effects. “It is critical that the Navy fields an information warfare in a LVC capability,” she stated.

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