TechNet Augusta 2016 “Cyber in the Combined Arms Fight”

August 29, 2016
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This is the first in our series of posts based on our attendance at AFCEA’s TechNet in Augusta. Other coming posts will dive into details of Army Mission Needs for Networking, Integrated Electronic Warfare, Tactical Radios, Defensive Cybersecurity, Cybersecurity Training, and the Army’s Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.

The annual AFCEA TechNet Augusta conference continues to grow in scope and is an excellent forum for Industry and Army Cyber/Signals/Electronic Warfare experts to interact.  The prevailing theme of the presentations and discussions was how to provide secure networks in times of war.  Army is making a strategic shift away from “networks as a service” and focusing on the importance of networks as a critical war fighting operational asset.  Army is seeking ways to securely combine cyber and kinetic effects to achieve military advantages.  They are pursuing ways to use cyber security and cyber situational awareness in real time, and in an automated manner that can respond and react at machine speed, self-diagnosing and self-healing.

Additionally, every presentation and discussion centered on “convergence”: the effective merging or integration of staffs, networks and systems into a unified whole to achieve decisive results.  Years of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in fragmented systems and approaches.  Army is working hard to remove the redundancies and consolidate as much as possible to improve interoperability, security and to reduce costs.  Through this approach, they expect to make a dramatic, incremental improvement in warfighter communications at all echelons.

MG Stephen Fogarty Commanding General Army Cyber CO Excellence briefed on the importance of operating in this “Complex Evolving Environment”.  He expects to make large investments in personnel and systems to do this; Army cannot do this with the “very small cyber force” (a few thousand professionals) they currently have.  As an example, he discussed how Army countered the IED threat thought a whole government approach, looking at it holistically.  They used financial, international, technical, etc. resources to make progress there.  The General wants to do something like that for Cyber.  “Failure to change in the space, the way we view this problem, is a decision to fail”. 

LTGEN Ben Hodges, Commanding General, US Army Forces Europe, by VTC reviewed the recent actions by Russia (in Estonia, Ukraine, Crimea, etc.) that have used Cyber as a weapon. 90% of the violations of the cease-fire have come from the Russian forces against the Ukrainians in cyberspace.   NATO relies on UAVs to do the monitoring, and Russian non-kinetic means are denying that capability.  He stressed the need to develop capabilities to counter that.  Additionally, he said coalition partners ALL see/require Secure Communications that cannot be compromised and Army want to have that ability to give to the Allies, when needed.  All our operations will be with our coalition partners.  There will be no US unilateral operations, so secure and interoperable solutions are key.  He presented three main challenges to the audience:

  • Must have secure tactical Frequency Hopping.
  • Common operational picture must be truly common. The supporting units have to be able to populate the COP of the supported unit, no matter what country is doing it.
  • Secure digital fires. If we have American radar out there, with multiple nations shooting, they must be able to use our radar securely.

MG Bruce Crawford, Commander, CECOM, has 16,000 people working at Aberdeen Proving Grounds and considers  “Readiness is our number one priority, and there are no other number one priorities.”   His New Strategic Realities:

  • Joint force requirements
  • Army’s Posture in Europe
  • Sustain Southwest Asia Long Term
  • Establish strategic frameworks
  • Irregular warfare
  • Research and development
  • C4ISR
  • Public health sciences
  • Test and evaluation
  • Chemical Biological

He sees some Global Trends that have suddenly predominated, but the infrastructure isn’t in place to take care of it.

  • Privacy vs. security
  • Exponential growth in software (while Army is still a hardware based organization)
  • Velocity of instability
  • Innovation

Potential ten-year problems:

  • Home station training – Rebuilding some of the capability lost because of the past 15 years of continuous combat.
  • Source selection (contracting) methodologies: Government needs to figure out what they are willing to pay more for; it’s not just about lowest price technically acceptable.
  • Technical data: need technical data rights for systems Army buys.  Army needs to find ways to protect against obsolescent parts due to intellectual property issues.
  • Skillset balancing: 80% of the Army’s Software Development is contracted out. They are currently reviewing what skill sets should be inherently government in software development.
  • Over 70% of those in uniform today came into the Army after 9/11; he has a well-trained force currently being called to do very demanding work.
  • AMD Mission command alignment: decision made to pull together the sustainment piece and the acquisition piece. Better collaboration and coordination and partnering.
  • Software assurance/enterprise oversight.
  • Multinational interoperability synchronization.

Our next report from the event will dive into US Army Networks and Services.