Science, technology, assessment bridges CEMA, kinetic effects in tactical command posts
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. (May 18, 2016) — Nine months of planning a new way for the U.S. Army to assess cyber and electromagnetic activities, or CEMA, in a tactical environment culminated in a two-week long event at the end of April where engineers challenged Soldiers in their brigade command post staff interactions to find better ways for the Army to operate in a modern threat environment.
The U.S. Army Materiel Command’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, took the vision of the Cyber Center of Excellence’s Commanding General Maj. Gen. Stephan Fogarty, and brought together key assets from across the Army to its experimentation venue here to look at elements of cyber and electromagnetic spectrum in an event called “Cyber Blitz: Converged Brigade Combat Team Main Command Post.”
“Cyber Blitz is a collaborative effort among CERDEC, the Training and Doctrine Command, Army Cyber Command, and the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) to demonstrate C4ISR capabilities that enable a converged Brigade Combat Team (BCT) Main Command Post,” said Matthew Picerno, CERDEC Space and Terrestrial Directorate, or S&TCD, Cyber Blitz project manager.
“We used a challenging, realistic scenario to observe and document operator and staff interactions, identify capability gaps, and inform cyber situational understanding metrics,” Picerno said.
The integration of kinetic and CEMA operations at the tactical level is new and somewhat uncharted; this effort was a first step in bringing together diverse organizations from across the Army to inform requirements, but more work is required, Picerno said.
The event consisted of three main groups of participants: CERDEC and industry scientists/engineers; the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division from Hawaii supplemented by Soldiers from the 7th Signal Command’s Cyber Protection Brigade; and assessors from Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity, ARCYBER, CERDEC and TRADOC.
Cyber Blitz coupled CERDEC’s integrated modeling and simulation environment with its lab and field-based risk reduction processes to acquire direct feedback while working with Soldiers in a tactically relevant setting. This provided CERDEC engineers, ASA(ALT) product managers and TRADOC capability managers a unique perspective compared to what they experience in everyday controlled environments, said Dr. Richard Wittstruck, CERDEC S&TCD associate directorate for field-based experimentation and integration.
“We really can’t do our job unless we understand our customers’ needs,” said Henry Muller, CERDEC director. “Our customers in this case are the Soldiers, I want them [CERDEC engineers and scientists] to get a feel for how Soldiers fight so they can take that back into our engineering and development environment and take a more focused approach to what the Soldiers need.
“Cyber Blitz is a great example of how we want to do business and how we will continue to do business over time,” Muller said. “Our interest as a research and development organization is ‘advance thought, advance capabilities…’ We’ve got world-class engineers and scientists working in a number of different areas. We combined CERDEC’s technical expertise with an operationally relevant setting with operators like we had at Cyber Blitz from 25th ID and our ability to instrument, to assess, to emulate and model the network.”
A behind-the-scenes “opposition force,” or OPFOR, created integrated cyber, electromagnetic and kinetic threats that Soldiers had to consider when planning their courses of action.
“The OPFOR team was made up of technical, materiel and operations specialists and experts from across Army and industry who had to present a peer on peer engagement in a synthetic environment so that the Soldiers could operate within a tactical scheme of maneuver,” Wittstruck said.
The OPFOR provided real-time support to ensure the simulated enemy environment replicated real-world cyber, electromagnetic and kinetic threats that Soldiers will encounter in the current and near-term battlespace.
“Cyber Blitz is using science and technology (S&T) to get ahead of where we usually are when we would assume a problem, get the request and start building something,” John Willison, director, CERDEC Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate. “CERDEC served as the lead for Cyber Blitz, which specifically focused on shaping CEMA doctrine, force design, and requirements and on identifying capability gaps that exist to inform future S&T investment.”
Orchestrating scenarios as well as getting systems that the Defense Information Systems Agency and Army have fielded or will field in the near future enabled Soldiers to experience, get their hands on, and provide feedback regarding BCT integrated CEMA staff processes as well as materiel and science and technology efforts that affect those processes.
“Cyber Blitz utilized S&T funding to inform the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) and the broader Army community what is possible and what is desirable in order to shape TRADOC doctrine, force design and training, and to shape requirements. While it may be more difficult to measure ‘success’ in such efforts than in efforts where specific capability is transitioned into an Army program of record, it is no less worthwhile, and in the current environment and in many domains, I would suggest it is even more worthwhile,” Willison said.
Soldiers such as Maj. Robert Braley, Electronic Warfare Officer for the 25th Infantry Division, used next-generations technologies during Cyber Blitz and was able to provide feedback to system developers.
“In the electronic warfare community we really don’t have [program of record] assets yet, so I was excited to actually get to use some of the stuff we hear about and maybe got to see a slide on, but didn’t know if it was just pie in the sky,” said Braley.
“I am optimistic, but obviously we gave them lots of feedback, the engineers or the FSRs [field support representatives] that were there. They were very open, they wanted to hear all that. They were very enthusiastic,” Braley said.
In addition to engineers and scientists gaining valuable insights during Cyber Blitz, the experimentation setup of the event also provided some of the Soldiers with a new outlook on their job.
“This experiment realized that we were able to see the necessity of our information we gathered off of our sensors and supply that information to the Cyber team of the CEMA team. The commander needs the information I have, finally feeling there is relevance to the work we have and not just making sure the comms are up,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kimberly Oliver, Senior Information Protection Technician for the 25th Infantry Division, a cyber-defense technician whose team also consisted of cyber network defenders.
“We are defending the network. We are ensuring that those that are in front of us — those Soldiers on the frontline — depend on us just as much as they depend on air support and ground support and supply. What we do as Signal support, it’s important to the commander… It’s more than ensuring the network is protected, it’s about protecting the lives of those at the front line,” Oliver said.
An assessment team of about 40 assessors documented observations and feedback from Soldiers about their experiences and interactions such as those Oliver experienced.
The information from the event will inform TRADOC’s potential recommendations for how the Army should incorporate cyber and electromagnetic activities in a tactical operations center.
In accordance with Army Regulation 71–9, Warfighting Capabilities Determination, a critical basis for the Cyber Blitz experiment assessment lies in the use of DOTMLPF-P, which stands for doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership (and education), personnel, facilities and policy, as criteria.
“From an S&T perspective, we are looking at providing [Soldiers] with the right applications in that common environment in order to make sure the technology is given to the Soldiers to perform their jobs more efficiently and more effectively,” said Kristy Luna, CERDEC Ground Activity assessment design officer and senior engineer.
The assessment team has started to upload many of their observations into the Joint Lessons Learned Information System, a central repository accessible across government organizations for the purpose of information and knowledge sharing. AMSAA is analyzing networked data messages sent between BCT staff elements during Cyber Blitz in order to inform on findings, BCT CEMA staff procedures, and integration of these procedures into BCT current operations staff processes.
“The information we are bringing isn’t going to someone’s email or someone’s inbox, or someone’s shared drive. We are actually doing real-time observations that can go to the fighting forces, and we can affect the battle today,” said Jacob Neal, from the Cyber Center of Excellence’s Lessons and Best Practices. The Army will use lessons learned during Cyber Blitz to inform this summer’s Cyber Quest at Fort Gordon, Georgia, as well as future Cyber Blitz events.
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The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.