Putting a Spotlight on Information
The Army is working to integrate information functions into its multidomain operations.
As the U.S. Army continues to evolve its newest warfighting domain, the cyber domain, information plays a key role. The service is working to incorporate information capabilities along with intelligence, electronic warfare, cyber and space, as well as with traditional fire capabilities.
In December, the Army released a doctrine guiding multidomain operations through 2028. The policy acknowledges that U.S. adversaries are contesting all domains, and that in the information environment American dominance is not guaranteed.
The policy states China and Russia are exploiting the operational environment to achieve their objectives just short of armed conflict. Their use of information warfare—in particular, the use of social media, false narratives and cyber attacks—along with diplomatic and economic actions, unconventional warfare, electronic warfare, and threats or actual use of conventional forces, all aim to create instability within countries and global alliances.
“China and Russia have leveraged these trends to expand the battlefield in time, blurring [the] distinction between peace and war in domains, [such as] space and cyberspace, and in geography to create tactical, operational and strategic stand-off,” the policy states.
In response, the Army is employing tenets of multidomain operations—a calibrated force posture, multidomain formations and convergence of capabilities—according to the policy. In convergence, capabilities need to cut across all domains, including the information environment. Here, the goal is to optimize effects to overmatch the enemy, including countering their information warfare and actively engaging across the information space. Any intelligence, maneuver and strike activities have to cut across all five domains—air, land, maritime, space and cyberspace—as well as the information environment, the Army doctrine states.
Brig. Gen. Jennifer Buckner, USA, director of Cyber, Electronic Warfare, and Information Operations, Headquarters Department of the Army G-3/5/7, explains the emerging role of information in the Army’s multidomain operations.
“The multidomain operational concept that is really driving all of our modernization priorities, and is describing our future operating environment, is the idea that information is a key element in multidomains, or really in all domains,” Gen. Buckner states. “That could not be a better framework for considering the ubiquitous nature of information in the future of warfare.”
The need to define the operational concepts related to information is driving the Army “fairly quickly” to experiments with units, exercises and training, she says.
The general highlights the stand up in mid-January of the Army’s intelligence, information, cyber, electronic warfare and space (I2CEWS) detachments. “We are looking at the right people, the right organizational construct, the right equipment to put in their hands, and the right communications,” she says. “And all of that is being done rapidly as a part of making multidomain operations a reality.”
Stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, the first I2CEWS element is tied to the U.S. Army Pacific Command and will participate in a number of different exercises, Gen. Buckner reports. “We are taking advantage of Army Pacific and I Corps alignment with Army Pacific on some joint exercises, and I think we will be informed by the series of the Joint Warfighting Assessments in May, and a JOIA, joint operational information assessment, exercise with the Marine Corps in June, involving all of those elements.”
For the I2CEWS detachment, the Army is leveraging the knowledge base of soldiers from the intelligence and fires brigades, the general notes. “I think it is significant that we build upon the intelligence brigades that are there and the fires brigade,” she states. “We are carving them out of those because it makes sense that we would recognize that intelligence is foundational to this, as are our recognized targeting processes. It is not just about intelligence collection or information operations, but it is really about using targeting methodology to describe what we want to do.”
The I2CEWS element also will participate in a National Training Center rotation in September and an Army Service Component exercise, called Orient Shield, which will be combined with what was a cyber experiment and technology demonstration, previously called Cyber Blitz.
“We are now aligning that demonstration with an exercise, so we’ve taken advantage of our ties with the industry and the Rapid Capability Office to see what technologies are out there,” Gen. Buckner states. “We tie it to a major exercise and take advantage of the operational environment with operational forces. So it is less about a technology demonstration and more about integrating capabilities and putting them in the hands of the soldiers in a realistic environment.”
Those four major exercises will inform the Army’s way ahead as to how it integrates information. And while the general admits that “it is a pretty ambitious schedule,” she says the plan “represents the priority that all of these functions demand.”
Moreover, Army soldiers, particularly those in the I2CEWS detachments, will play a key role in determining the convergence of information with the other functions. “They are empowered to really drive how it is we do this in the future,” Gen. Buckner says. “Rather than relying on single discipline experiments, the idea that we are putting a lot of this into their hands at once to learn, I think also represents the complexity of the environment. And I think they are in a position to bring about change in a much more rapid way because of these experiments and exercises.”
To fashion information into multidomain operations, the Army also is equipping its information-related warfighters. Here, Gen. Buckner and staff are working with two primary program executive offices, Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEW&S) and Program Executive Office Command Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) to identify “what we want our future equipment to look like,” she shares. “They are the experimenters, if you will, for our future force.”
Gen. Buckner also highlights the importance of the Army’s Rapid Capability Office.
“They are also really key in identifying emerging technologies and charting a path to get those in the hands of our operators on a fairly accelerated schedule,” she says.
In addition, ever since the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff designated information as a new joint function in July 2017, the Army has been evaluating how to best implement its role in response to the new Joint Doctrine.
The Joint Doctrine specifies that the services need to deliberately integrate information-related functions with other joint functions “to influence relevant-actor perceptions, behavior, action or inaction, and support human and automated decision making.” The doctrine portends that the elevation of information to a joint function would “help commanders and staffs understand and leverage the pervasive nature of information, its military uses, and its application during all military operations,” the doctrine states.
Gen. Buckner explains that the joint effort is still developing, especially in regard to processes. “I think this is a really interesting area, because there are no agreed-upon doctrinal terms yet,” she notes.
For the Army’s contribution to the joint effort, Lt. Gen. Stephen Fogarty, commanding general, U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER) is leading the way, Gen. Buckner notes. “We’ve heard General Fogarty in leading ARCYBER ... publicly talk about the future of information warfare,” she states. “And we have a really expansive view of information warfare, and he is really championing what that looks like doctrinally for the Army.” In addition, it is key that Gen. Fogarty has the Army’s only active-duty information operations brigade under ARCYBER, she adds.
Across the other services, the Army also is formalizing concepts for operations in the information environment, Gen. Buckner offers. She acknowledges there is disparity in what the services call information operations. “Across the joint community, I think we are all talking about the same things, but we haven’t agreed upon joint doctrinal terms yet,” she says. “We are all going in the same direction, but we might just call it different things.”
As such, the Army is looking to joint and departmental leadership “to help unify us on the doctrinal terms,” she emphasizes. “But to be clear, we are all, I think, really synchronized on how we seek to integrate information as part of all of our future operations. There is widespread agreement that it is definitely perhaps one of the more influential components of the future of warfare. All of us would agree upon that.”
As far as putting information-related capabilities into practice, the Army is going right to the front lines and working to implement it into forward-deployed operations in the Middle East.
“We are working closely with Army Special Operations Command and with U.S. Special Operations Command on becoming faster in this space to integrate information and to recognize how to take advantage of the space,” Gen. Buckner says. “Because speed is really a critical element of this as well.”
The service is using current operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and partnering with U.S. Cyber Command and ARCYBER to functionalize information into current cyber operations. “I think the fact that they have a clear operational need on a day-to-day basis in current operations, that is key,” she reasons. “While we are helping frame the future, we are being informed by current operations. Our current operations also are helping us frame some of the policy and doctrinal discussions.”
Gen. Buckner, who has been the director of cyber for Army staff for about seven months, also shared her perspective of the accomplishments so far. “It’s been interesting because it represents that for cyber, we recognize that it is a warfighting domain and operational domain.”
The addition of the cyber section with the headquarters staff mirrors the importance of multifunction capabilities. “We did capitalize on what had been single discipline sections within the headquarters staff, that is we had an information operations section, an electronic warfare section, but we didn’t have a cyber section. That has been the most significant part of the last seven months,” she adds. “[Adding cyber] represents the uniting of what was previously information operations and electronic warfare. And I like the idea that the current cyber directorate includes all of those things because that is the way that we operate in the space.”
The section also is coordinating more with the office of Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, USA, CIO/G-6. “I think our way forward is increasingly interdependent with the Army G-6,” Gen. Buckner states. “[It is] because we recognize the importance of cybersecurity in everything we are doing, as well. It is not just added on in the mission role and function of the G-6. There is an operational element of cybersecurity as well.”