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Embedded cyber teams prepare Army brigades to face invisible threat

A pilot program that sends teams of cyber warriors to brigade-level units to train with them is a key step forward in enabling commanders to use the Army's cyber warfighting capabilities, leaders said.

"We've got to get a better idea of the threat that outguns and outmatches us," said Col. Jerry Turner, commander of 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

Integrating cyber teams gives commanders a better grasp of the tools and abilities available to them, even when they must operate in a degraded environment, said Turner, whose brigade has trained with cyber forces in a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.  

Turner and Army cyber leaders spoke on a panel Thursday as part of a day-long event, "Army Cyber: Cyber and Future Readiness," one of the AUSA Institute of Land Warfare Hot Topics gatherings. The Association of the U.S. Army hosted the event in Arlington, Virginia.  

The pilot program, "Cyber Support to Corps and Below," or CSCB, embeds cyber teams in brigades to give maneuver commanders an edge in protecting their information and the networks they use.

The teams work to broaden commanders' capabilities for both defensive and offensive cyber operations, electronic warfare and information operations.

Brigades and their commanders can develop a better sense of how the cyber teams enable them to achieve their goals on the battlefield.  

"There is a void in exposing the rest of the Army to cyber operations," said Col. Kenneth Rector, commandant of the Army Cyber School, Cyber Center of Excellence.  "It's on the institution to determine how it goes out to the force."

As the Army explores how the cyber teams can work for and within brigade combat teams, the teams can augment some capabilities that brigades are missing, said Brig. Gen. Patricia Frost, director of Cyber, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7.  

Brigades have lost their information officers through changes in the Army force structure, and capability in electronic warfare operations is lacking at corps level and below, she said.  

Soldiers in MOS 25D (cyber network defender) will be effective in those formations, she said, as they learn what the brigade commander wants to achieve and they become integrated into the commander's maneuver plans.

In addition, soldiers who work in electronic warfare can grow needed skills through exposure to baseline cyber operations so they can become subject-matter experts, Rector said.

One challenge in training for cyber operations is replicating a realistic contested environment, said Col. Steven Oatman of  Cyber Electromagnetic Activities, Army Forces Command.  A realistic environment may involve FM, WiFi, cellular, satellite and other signals.

"A cluttered environment is hard to understand unless you can visualize it," Oatman said.

The intent is to replicate a similar environment at training centers and at home station, although maybe not at such a "robust" level, he said.

Different types of units will have different perspectives "from their own foxholes" on what cyber capabilities they need, Oatman said.

Commanders also will want to know how to operate in a degraded environment, even an analog environment, and what solutions are at hand.

"The commander needs to understand where he is vulnerable," Oatman said, so he knows if he loses satellite communications, he still has FM comms, for example.

"The intent is to enable the commander to fight and win on the battlefield," he said. 

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