The Warfighter Information Network–Tactical program delivered a digital transformation, enabling maneuver elements to move faster and provide commanders with vital battlefield information in near real-time. Its flexibility facilitated communications in Iraq’s urban environments and Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain. Although a powerful improvement over Mobile Subscriber Equipment, the technologies are not powerful enough to combat adversaries wielding cyber capabilities.
With the United States engaged in a “long-term strategic competition” with China and Russia, which are mounting persistent cyber attack campaigns that pose long-term risks to America, the U.S. military will act to deter aggression, cyber or otherwise, according to a new policy, known as the Department of Defense Cyber Strategy, from the U.S. Department of Defense.
Russia’s ability to evolve its use of information operations to leverage social media and the cyber domain continues to shock and challenge the world community. The country’s actions, especially during the 2016 U.S. elections, have brought cyber information operations out of the shadows and into the limelight. Now, state and nonstate actors are frequently using similar techniques to influence the public and achieve political goals once only attainable through armed conflict.
The days of the United States’ stature as a force without equal appear to be over. The threat of near-peer competition with increasingly sophisticated adversaries is growing. As Secretary of Defense James Mattis says in the National Defense Strategy, "America has no preordained right to victory on the battlefield."
Gen. Michael Hayden, USAF (Ret.), principal, the Chertoff Group, shifted the weight of the conversation at the AFCEA/GMU Critical Issues in C4I Symposium from the direction of cyber narrowly defined to information broadly defined. Throughout his morning keynote he touched on Russian manipulation of the 2016 election, the U.S. moving into a post-truth culture and what cyber leaders can do in the future to help secure the nation.
Russia is focusing more and more on artificial intelligence, machine learning and autonomous systems, and this effort is like none seen before, according to an expert. The country is calling for an increased response from its academia, industry and military to develop these technologies, said Samuel Bendett, associate research analyst, Center for Naval Analyses.
The generation that remembers “duck and cover” also recalls headlines that included the words Soviet Union and impending dangers. Today, a combination of global instability, rising authoritarianism and democracies in retreat may lead to similar yet more dangerous situations, and this time, the headlines also are likely to include the words “People's Republic of China.”
To succeed in the battlespace of the future and to ensure combat superiority over peer adversaries, the U.S. military must be equipped with capabilities to defend information networks in cyberspace and to secure unimpeded access to the electromagnetic spectrum. Adversaries are developing cyber and electronic warfare capabilities to conduct information operations against U.S. systems that will likely threaten the speed and accuracy of military communications, intelligence and data sharing channels, while maliciously altering or stealing the information itself. These capabilities often have complementary effects, which means integrating cyber and electronic warfare could provide a stronger protection and attack capacity for U.S.
Cloud computing, big data and cyber are among the capabilities that pose a major threat to U.S. forces, said Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, Army deputy chief of staff, G-2.
“If you’re a threat actor out there, probably a little bit of investment in these areas is going to go a long way to make life very difficult for your adversaries,” Gen. Berrier told the audience at the AFCEA Army Signal Conference in Springfield, Virginia.
Russia, Iran and North Korea are testing more aggressive cyber attacks against the United States and partner nations, according to the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community delivered to Congress today by Dan Coats, director of national intelligence.
“The use of cyber attacks as a foreign policy tool outside of military conflict has been mostly limited to sporadic lower-level attacks. Russia, Iran and North Korea, however, are testing more aggressive cyber attacks that pose growing threats to the United States and U.S. partners,” the report states.
The already-complex Marine Corps mission is about to become more intricate as the Corps strives to incorporate new methods of warfighting and countering enemy capabilities. Viewing adversaries has given the Corps a glimpse of the future, and major changes lie over the horizon.
These points were hammered home by Lt. Gen. Robert S. Walsh, USMC, commanding general, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, speaking at the day two morning keynote address at West 2018 in San Diego. From amphibious assaults to information warfare, the Marines are incorporating new capabilities that will lead to an entirely new way of waging combat, the general allowed.
No longer can the U.S. military bank on ensured victories. The battlefield is more lethal and disruptive, is conducted at breakneck speeds and reaches further around the globe. And although fighting terrorism has gripped the military’s focus for the last 16 years, it is the rise of so-called inter-state strategic competition against nations such as China and Russia that will now be the primary concern for U.S. national security.
Undersea fiber optic communications cables are minimally protected and have locations that are public knowledge. This puts these vital communication links at risk of nation-state and terrorist attacks that could cause immense harm.
Russia has advanced the state of the art in electronic warfare capabilities to overcome and even overpower Western electronic systems, both military and commercial. And now the country’s military modernization plan extending to 2025 lays the groundwork for further advancement, according to a recent European think tank report.
Russia is developing a total package of electronic warfare (EW) systems covering a broad frequency range. The systems encompass traditional areas such as surveillance, protection and countermeasures, and they shield Russian use of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). These total package systems are designed to be highly mobile and include small units deployable by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
The U.S. federal government has not yet told state-level election officials whether their election systems were hacked by the Russians.
— George Seffers (@gseffers) September 7, 2017
The Russian military has been using a clever—and lethal—propaganda technique against Ukrainian soldiers. They spam the soldiers’ cellphones with demoralizing messages and then take advantage of the resulting confusion to geolocate the soldiers’ cellphone signals and launch an attack.
Gen. Baker: You're never going to be able to emulate [in training] the gut-wrenching emotions of Russian-style messaging.#AFCEATechNet
— George Seffers (@gseffers) August 9, 2017
Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, USA (Ret.), former director of command, control, communications and computers/cyber for the Joint Staff, paints a dire picture of future warfare. The next war, he says, will begin with wave after wave of cyber and electronic warfare attacks that our nation is not prepared for. Although the Army is making strides in training the cyber electromagnetic activities (CEMA) force, the service may not be able to address all scenarios in a training environment.
The mind of society is the battlefield in the current global struggle for geopolitical domination. The uses of soft power dominate in this battle and information warfare is the name of the game—not “cyber war” in all the ways it has been described but the influence and ultimately control of individual minds that, like cells in a body, make up the Mind of Society. Then control is used as leverage to achieve objectives that are often hidden.
The U.S. government took a vital tangible step toward clearly defining rules of cyber war when the Department of Justice unsealed an indictment on March 15 accusing two operatives of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and two hired computer hackers of being behind last year's massive cyber breach of Yahoo.
It is imperative that the United States—government and private companies alike—begin using its inherent innovative spirit to think exponentially and develop technologies that will save time, dollars and lives while defeating the nation's adversaries, said Adm. Harry Harris, USN, commander of U.S. Pacific Command.