Training the CEMA Force

August 9, 2017
By George I. Seffers
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Army officials outline challenges to cyber, signal and electronic warfare training.

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.

“We as a nation are extremely vulnerable. More so than any of us would really want to admit—not only our networks but our infrastructure and the bad guys are banging on us every day,” Gen. Bowman told the AFCEA TechNet Augusta audience. He added that although the service is training for CEMA at the National Training Center, it is not yet doing enough.

He related a time when he was in charge of a network that was attacked and taken down by the Russians. “It was an ugly event, but it was much the same as a natural disaster, such as Katrina. They whacked us. Our network went down, and we started rebuilding,” Gen. Bowman recalled.

But if hit with multiple waves of attacks, rebuilding will not be so simple.

“They’re going to hit us and hit us and hit us, and the only way we’ll be able to survive and to operate through that is to start expanding the level of training and the experience that we have operating with degraded systems or sometimes no systems at all,” he added.

He added that the effects of a CEMA attack will be felt across the service. “CEMA is a corps and below thing, but anything that happens in the CEMA arena is going to have strategic effects. If we have an event in a corps or below, it will affect the rest of our Army,” Gen. Bowman explained.

Gen. Bowman made the comments while serving on a panel at the conference. Fellow panelist Maj. Gen. Patricia Frost, USA, director of cyber, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7, described CEMA as a “team of teams” problem requiring cooperation among signal, cyber, electronic warfare and intelligence branches as well as with the other services, international partners and industry. “We are going to be multifunctional teams teaming together because at the end of the day, we have to bring options to the commander to achieve the effects he or she is trying to achieve on the battlefield,” Gen. Frost stated.

One audience member asked how the Army can train for CEMA in urban terrain without realistic urban training areas and no authority to operate in U.S. cities.

Another panelist, Maj. Gen. John Baker, USA, commanding general, U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, partially disagreed with the premise, but agreed that despite having some urban training facilities within the United States, the Army is not able to train at the scale it could in Baghdad, for example. “We’re not operating at that scale anywhere in the United States, and I don’t see that changing any time soon,” Gen. Baker said.

Gen. Frost touted the use of modeling and simulation, saying the Persistent Cyber Training Environment is “primarily for the cyber mission force” and will “provide them the right environment with the scenarios to work through offensive and defensive cyberspace operations.”

She recommended connecting the Persistent Cyber Training Environment to the warfighters at large and to the combat training centers. She also reported that a general officer steering committee is assessing modeling and simulation capabilities for cyber and electronic warfare. “We’re trying to bring in the right expertise to emulate that environment,” she reported.

Information operations is one potential threat broadly overlooked in Army training, the officers agreed. Gen. Baker said he recently learned from a Ukrainian major that Russia is targeting Ukrainian soldiers and their families with text messages containing demoralizing propaganda to sow confusion while they mount an attack. The messages can include phony texts to family members announcing the soldier has been killed.

“Our adversaries have figured out information operations,” Gen. Frost replied. “They know how to influence. They know how to distract.”

She added, however, that the U.S. military could not easily launch such a campaign. “We all know if we were to do that type of operation, the level of policy and authorities we would have to go through. Our adversaries aren’t constrained that way,” she said.

Gen. Baker said Russian-style information operations could never be included in U.S. military training. “You’re never going to emulate the gut-wrenching emotions those kinds of messages would have on a family members,” he said.

Gen. Bowman agreed. “If we started doing that and sending notes to people like that when we’re training, we’d be done. And we ought to be done,” he said.

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