Army explores using cyber teams to aid maneuver commanders

Army explores using cyber teams to aid maneuver commanders

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FORT IRWIN, Calif. (Army News Service) — A pilot program known as Cyber Support to Corps and Below, or CSCB, is now providing some maneuver commanders with an improved situational awareness of the information environment and tools to shape that environment.

According to Lt. Col. Jon Burnett Burnett, chief of Army Cyber Command’s CSCB, cyber training has evolved during the CSCB experiments to such a degree that it’s now possible for a maneuver commander to gain a great advantage in the warfighting domain of cyberspace.

Expeditionary cyber teams, embedded in the brigade, can help commanders maneuver in the information environment by leveraging defensive cyber operations, offensive cyber operations, electronic warfare, and information operations.

During a recent rotation at Fort Irwin’s National Training Center in late July and August, the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team became the fifth brigade to integrate cyber effects under the pilot program.

TARGETING

Maj. Deonand Singh, operations officer for the 781st Military Intelligence Battalion, said that during this rotation the expeditionary cyber team was deployed to carry out a variety of activities while operating against an opposing force.

The cyber team conducted reconnaissance of the training scenario’s operational information environment to gain an understanding of the adversary’s activities and then sent the information to an analytical cell, where a team developed insights and actionable intelligence.

Singh stressed that he looks at cyber tools and assets as “effects-based operations.”

All of these operations occur as the brigade moves quickly through the battlespace, he added, so the cyber team is constantly busy and must always be on their toes.

A battalion moving through or near a city could employ a cyber team to disrupt enemy networks located there, said Capt. Samuel Lough, offensive cyber operations planner.

NTC has mock cities and villages sprinkled about the mountains and deserts in an area the size of Rhode Island, so such scenarios are easily simulated for training purposes.

DEFENSIVE CYBER

Capt. Robert Busby, defensive cyber operations planner, said his role in the brigade’s mission is to defend key systems from enemy cyber attacks. Key systems include anything the brigade commander deems critical to the mission, be it servers, routers, transmitters or targeting systems.

Busby consults with the brigade commander and staff regarding the unit’s key enablers that must be protected and his team then prioritizes those in their defensive tactics. To anticipate potential threats, cyber defenders must think like the enemy, Busby said.

“We definitely rely upon these defenders to harden our networks,” Busby said.
Pfc. Jomar Rodriguez, one of Busby’s cyber defenders, realizes the importance of his role. As a network analyst, he uses specialized software to discover adversary activity on the brigades’ network.

While is relatively new to the Army and cyber, he said the team’s seasoned noncommissioned officers and warrant officers have welcomed him and have been eager to show him the ropes.

“I feel at home using this technology,” he added. “It’s a good feeling knowing you have a real impact.”

AFFECTING OUTCOMES

Although the rotation last just two weeks, cyber personnel were involved in the 180 days of planning and exercises leading up to this NTC event. In that time, cyber operators participated in training exercises with 24 of the 25 companies that make up the 4,000-person brigade.

That time spent with them gave the cyber team cohesion with every element of the brigade, Singh said.

One of the most important lessons he has taken from these exercises is the crucial role credibility plays within the brigade, from the lowest to the highest echelons.

Credibility comes not just from showing what cyber can do; but also from speaking the same language as those in the combat arms branches. That means translating the technical speak that cyber operators use to the tactical speak they can understand, he said.

It helps matters that most of the cyber operators here have a combat arms background and are already fluent in that lexicon, he said. Singh was a cavalry scout and Lough was an infantryman, for example.

With this pilot program and previous pilots like it, the Army is gather an extraordinary amount of information about where cyber fits and what it can do for the maneuver commander, Singh said.

The experiments are helping the Army determine the right size and mixture of talents needed for an expeditionary cyber team, depending on what types of missions they’re tasked with.

During the next rotation here, according to Singh, the Army will have collected enough data to answer those questions.