Every soldier should understand this about cyberspace: you are the Army’s first line of defense, said one of the service’s leaders in the cyber warfighting domain.
The Army is working on how it will train and equip soldiers to deal with an adversary they can’t see, said Maj. Gen. Patricia Frost, who leads the Army Cyber Directorate at the Pentagon. The directorate, which opened last summer, is integrating the Army’s cyber, electronic warfare and information operations.
As the Army builds its organizations and capability in the cyber domain, “where I think we need to go next is the understanding by every soldier,” Frost told Army Times in an Oct. 5 interview at the Pentagon. “Every soldier knows ‘I have to fire my weapon.’ Does every soldier realize that they’re the first line of defense in cyberspace? Between what you have at your work station or your warfighting platform, your iPhone or your Blackberry or all these end-point devices, the adversary only has to have one vector in.”
The Army needs a strong and capable cyber mission force, but responsibility for cyber defense belongs to all soldiers, she said.
“They need to understand what their responsibilities are when they log on,” Frost said. “That can’t just be Army Cyber’s problem. Everyone is a defender in this space.”
Soldiers also need to know how to react when the electromagnetic environment in which they work is compromised, just as they need to know how to fire their weapon when wearing protective gear during a chemical, biological or nuclear event, she said.
“We’re talking about this integration with electronic warfare,” Frost said. “You also need to know how to operate, depending on what your MOS is, in a degraded or denied environment, due to what could happen in an electromagnetic environment.”
The answer is not putting an electronic warfare soldier in every squad.
“You can’t scale that across the Army. That’s not realistic,” she said. “You need to know as a soldier, how do I operate, and you need to understand what vulnerabilities you may open up for your squad, company, battalion, brigade, division or corps, by your cyber hygiene on the network.”
A new type of training
Soldiers may see a change in their training at combat training centers across the Army.
Cyber education and training needs to take place not just at the Cyber Center of Excellence “but at all the centers of excellence to understand how this electromagnetic environment is affecting us and also how the cyber domain impacts us,” Frost said.
“We’re looking at how do we change the training environment within our combat training centers to show the environment we’d like to project,” she said. “We’re working very closely with the Combined Arms Center, with FORSCOM [Army Forces Command], on how do we create the right environment that brings in these different aspects,” Frost said.
A new exercise
In recent weeks the Army has been teaming up with the Marine Corps to look at training in signals, cyber and EW, and now a combined exercise is planned for February at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
“Because we are all very invested in a land component view, there’s a lot of synergy between us and the Marine Corps and how we want to emulate this type of environment,” Frost said.
FORSCOM will designate which unit will participate in the exercise, Frost said. The soldiers and Marines would interact to share information in a tactical environment so they can understand what’s happening in that space.
The Army in September conducted an exercise called Cyber Blitz at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. Marines came to observe and industry partners took part to see what’s needed for EW and cyberspace capabilities.
Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division were there to try out prototypes of tools and also capabilities now available, then gave the industry partners their feedback.
Growing the force
The Army has made a “very significant” investment in its cyber force, and in its manpower, organizational constructs, resourcing and acquisition, Frost said. The Army has achieved more than other services have so far, she said.
“I feel very strongly that the Army is truly leading the way in this space,” Frost said. “I think we’re really seeing that come together now in how we’re equipping the cyber mission force, the operational capabilities we’re putting in our support to our geographic combatant commands we’re aligned to.”
As of Sept. 30, the Army was the first service to deliver all of its 41 active component teams at full operational capability, ahead of the other services and a year ahead of schedule, Frost said. The cyber teams were supposed to be at FOC by the end of 2018, so they were ready a year ahead of schedule, she said.
The Army’s reserve component teams are building up and expected to reach FOC by 2024, she said. Reserve component teams are already supporting critical missions in support of U.S. Cyber Command, under the operational control of Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, the commander of Army Cyber Command.
Frost says she sees the progress as “a huge win.”
The Army has opened the Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and is growing that center and its manning. The Army also has a cyber brigade at Fort Meade, Maryland.
“Generating an operational force at Fort Gordon is just tremendous, and we hope we are setting the foundation to maybe be that joint service school … not just cyber but electronic warfare as well,” Frost said.
One of the priorities for Army cyber now is to assess how secure and resilient its weapons platforms are, Frost said, and the same goes for installations and systems.
“We’re doing a lot of mission analysis of what does the Army need,” she said, including what type of cyber expertise is required at echelon as staff and as operators.
Another priority for the year ahead is supporting Army Cyber Command, the Army’s only operational command in the cyber space, Frost said.
“I want to ensure that Gen. Nakasone is successful in what he is trying to achieve for ’18 and beyond, and we’re helping him achieve that,” she said.
One of his missions is defending the Department of Defense Information Network. The cyber directorate works to ensure his command is resourced and has the capabilities for that mission, which extends across every command to strengthen and secure the DODIN, Frost said.
Warfighting in cyberspace
As soldiers develop and mature in the Army, they should understand “at the base level of their tradecraft” how the different domains — land, air, sea, space and cyber — affect their warfighting function, Frost said, “and how we integrate across all the centers of excellence and how we integrate operationally across the Army,” she said.
Soldiers and commanders need to understand the battle spaces and visualize the invisible ones.
“One of the things we’re working on not just in the cyber domain but in the electromagnetic environment is how do you visualize this space that is not tangible,” Frost said. “We have right now a capability requirement for cyber situational understanding which would provide a visualization tool for commanders all the way down to the brigade combat team.”
Commanders would also have a planning management tool to allow them to see the electromagnetic environment and their own unit’s energy signatures as well as the enemy’s.
The goal is to give the commander tools to achieve mission success, and as the threat evolves, the capabilities evolve as well.
“Everyone says it’s about the technology and the hardware, but the Army is a people-focused service, we’re about our people,” Frost said. “The 8th Infantry Division was my first unit when I came into the Army and ‘Soldiers are our credentials’ was our motto. That truly is how were going to advance in this space.”
Kathleen Curthoys is editor of Army Times. She has been an editor at Military Times for 20 years, covering issues that affect service members. She previously worked as an editor and staff writer at newspapers in Columbus, Georgia; Huntsville, Alabama; Bloomington, Indiana; Monterey, California and in Germany.