Army experiments with cyber warfare

The Army continues to experiment with equipping its land forces with cyber capabilities, a recognition that future combat operations could increasingly have a cyber dimension.

Ronald W. Pontius, Deputy to the Commanding General for U.S. Army Cyber Command and Second Army

Ronald W. Pontius, Deputy to the Commanding General for U.S. Army Cyber Command and Second Army.

The Army continues to experiment with equipping its land forces with cyber capabilities, a recognition that future combat operations could increasingly have a cyber dimension.

The service is conducting five or six experiments over about 15 months that "will inform the…doctrine, organization, force structure of what it really means of how the Army should integrate this [cyber] capability in unified land operations," Ronald Pontius, deputy to the commanding general at Army Cyber Command, said at an Oct. 14 press briefing.

Army officials point out that the Army has a clear need to equip its soldiers with cyber capabilities at the tactical level, perhaps more so than the Navy or Air Force. The service is conducting the series of experiments to figure out how that works in practice.

One experiment took place in May at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La., where members of the Army's Third Brigade took part in offensive and defensive operations on a network. Training sets the stage for the simulation, according to Maj. Gen. Stephen Fogarty, the commander of the Army's Cyber Center of Excellence.

"We don't just deliver a capability without having a good foundation," said Fogarty, who witnessed the exercise.

The experiments are meant to see how various disciplines -- electronic warfare, cyber operations and signals intelligence -- can gel during operations.

"One of the things we learned is that we still have to…improve our integration of electronic warfare capabilities into that mix," Fogarty said of the experiment at Fort Polk. That type of experiment is nonetheless a "good model for the future" development of cyber capabilities, he added.

The Army would do well to better utilize open-source tools to build its cyber capabilities, said Army Cyber Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Harris. He described a recent demonstration in which Army captains were able to remotely unlock a device in the trunk of a car. Demonstrations like that help commanders realize "this really is an effect that we can place on a target in time and space, just like if it was indirect fires or direct fires from artillery or an air weapons team," Harris said.

Out in the field is "where innovation is going to happen," he added. "It's not going to happen sitting in CyberCom headquarters or in the NSA facilities because they're too stifled with overhead rules and processes."

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