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New center, school to bring signals, cyber, EW together

Jun. 25, 2013 - 12:54PM   |  
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Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno has approved a new cyber school for soldiers to consolidate training of the Army’s growing cyber force in one location at Fort Gordon, Ga., the first step in what could be a significant reorganization of soldiers with connections to cyberspace operations.

The new Cyber Center of Excellence will incorporate the Signals Center of Excellence and unify training and modernization efforts for cyberspace operations, electronic warfare, cyber electromagnetic activity and cyber-related signals intelligence, Army officials said.

Training and Doctrine Command commander Gen. Robert W. Cone has publicly called for the cyber school and also for a cyber career field, and plans to create the latter are underway.

Officials say the new career field for officers, enlisted soldiers, warrant officers and civilians has the potential to absorb certain cyber, intelligence and signals soldiers from other branches because of their cyber skills.

The school would unify and integrate training for disciplines that cover computer hacking, jamming and eavesdropping on electromagnetic signals, which the Army considers separate but related.

“From a war-fighter perspective, whether you’re signal or intel, this gives the cyber workforce a new sense of futuristic identity and of the increased importance of their role in warfare,” said Col. Michael A. Marti, the chief of mission command, intelligence and cyber at the Army Capabilities Integration Center, TRADOC, Fort Eustis, Va.

“Because we will blend these very nuanced technical skills, it will make them an elite capability.”

The plans, which were awaiting the ultimate approval of Army Secretary John McHugh as of June 21, have not been publicly announced. However, military and civilian sources close to the effort say McHugh is expected to affirm Odierno’s decision.

“This is the boldest and most forward-looking thing I’ve seen the Army do,” said Jeff Moulton, a senior cyber researcher with the Georgia Tech Research Institute who works with the government. “Putting cyber, [signals intelligence] and EW together is a big deal.”

The school would merge the Army’s force modernization proponent for cyberspace operations and electronic warfare “to achieve unity of effort for capability development, integration and the force modernization process,” according to TRADOC’s June 4 order to establish the school.

The cyber school would remove some conceptual barriers to create a “nuanced blending” of signals intelligence, electronic warfare and cyber electromagnetic activity skills, which the Cyber CoE will “fully integrate” for cyberspace operations, Marti said.

From signal to cyber

Odierno on May 31 approved the strategy and schedule to create the cyber school. TRADOC would transition the signals school at Fort Gordon into the cyber school in a process that begins Aug. 1 and must be complete by Oct. 1, 2015.

The school’s name and some command relationships related to the new school are set to change in August, but the related organizations and personnel will not physically move, at least at first. Fort Gordon is expected to build facilities to accommodate the physical moves over the next two years, according to sources close to the effort.

The school will assume command of the force modernization proponent for cyberspace operations and electronic warfare, which today are held respectively by Army Cyber Command, Fort Meade, Md., and the Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Force modernization proponents determine future capabilities, development efforts and requirements for doctrine, organizations, training, materiel, leadership, personnel and facilities.

The organization would achieve initial operating capability through “matrixed relationships,” Marti said.

“On 1 Aug., the Army cyber proponent folks at Fort Meade will take off their Army Cyber patch and put on a TRADOC patch and start reporting to the newly established Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon, Ga.,” he said. “The same goes for the EW folks; they’d stay working at Leavenworth, and their school is at Fort Sill, [Okla.] at the Fires Center of Excellence.”

At initial operating capacity, the Cyber CoE would oversee a signals school and provisional cyber school.

The school’s signals capability development integration directorate, or CDID, will become a cyber CDID. The organization’s job will be to envision the future operating environment and future scenarios and plan how future concepts and capabilities should be developed over time to meet that future. At least for now, EW and cyber will have separate capabilities managers under the CDID.

“As opposed to the signaleers deciding how do we create a network for our soldiers to talk on, now that CDID will have to expand that thinking to how do we [operate] related to cyber, electronic warfare and cyber-electromagnetic activities,” Marti said. “If I’m a signaleer or an intel professional working in a job related to cyber, I’d see this as a tremendous step forward.”

A TRADOC analysis, now underway, will determine which signals jobs are distinct from cyber, Marti said. Those jobs would receive related training at the signals school within the Cyber Center of Excellence, when it is fully operational in 2015.

The next moves

Discussions are underway in Congress about whether Army Cyber Command, split between Fort Meade and Fort Belvoir, Va., would eventually move to Fort Gordon, one source said. The move would take Army Cyber Command from near National Security Agency headquarters to NSA’s facility at Fort Gordon.

The plan for the school raises other questions about future mergers and moves for cyber, signals intelligence and electronic warfare personnel and organizations. The Army is moving quickly to transition the school at Fort Gordon, but other potential changes require more deliberation.

“This initial step institutionally will open up other possible changes organizationally, but we will be in the build, test, assess and refine mode on this Cyber Center of Excellence at least for the next 24 months,” Marti said.

Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the chief of U.S. Cyber Command and the NSA, in a recent speech called for a merger of signals and military intelligence troops who respectively perform defensive and offensive cyber operations. Cyber CoE officials are expected to re-examine how the Army conducts offensive and defensive operations and clarify the chains of responsibility for cyber operations.

“The institutional change we’re making will be the vanguard for other operational changes,” Marti said.

Soldiers' careers

How far the Army plans to draw the border of the possible cyber career field, and what related organizational changes may result, is to be decided by senior Army leaders in the coming months, according to three sources. Marti acknowledged that officials at Army Cyber and the Army staff are conducting an internal study to determine the form a cyber career field could take.

Marti said officials want to move quickly, which Odierno has prodded them to do. But they also want to ensure the Army’s workforce best serves the needs of the service, as well as the joint U.S. Cyber Command. “This management model has to be informed by all of those echelons, which is why Gen. Alexander’s vision is so important,” Marti said.

Some institutional resistance is said to remain because of the potential redistribution of personnel and authorities.

“People have been saying for years there should be a cyber career specialty, but the MI and signal folks have been saying, ‘No, we don’t need that; we’re doing fine,’ ” a civilian source told Army Times. “When they stood up the Rangers and Deltas, the people most opposed to it [were] the infantry because they’re going to take the cream of the crop. It’s a zero-sum game.”

Not so, according to Marti.

“From the time we took lead on this, everyone has come to the plate and played ball, and it’s been liberating and invigorating to watch,” he said.

One of the largest unanswered questions is what this all means for the 29-series career field for electronic warfare officers, warrant officers and enlisted personnel — a field that is four years old — particularly, whether it will be subsumed into a cyber career field.

The cadre’s creation came with a storm of internal debate over the relationship between electronic warfare and cyber, and in doctrine, the two are considered separate but related.

“Those stances have changed, but senior Army leaders are saying, ‘Over your objections, we’re going to do it,’ ” one civilian source said. “There are valid issues, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be worked through.”

According to Marti, it’s too soon to say what will happen to the 29 series, though he said it is “feasible” that signals intelligence and electronic warfare skill sets could come together under a single cyber career field.

The chief of the Army’s electronic warfare directorate, Col. Jim Ekvall, told Army Times he considers cyberspace operations and electromagnetic warfare as “separate and distinct from one another.” He acknowledged the two have a symbiotic relationship and are becoming more closely aligned, but likened the two to infantrymen and field artillerymen, who conduct synchronized operations but make up separate branches.

Even if the cyber and electronic warfare specialists aren’t the same people, they will at least be working together in fights, Ekvall said. A maneuver commander might one day have access to a cyber-electromagnetic operations cell on an as-needed basis or as part of the force structure.

Within that cell, an EW officer, for instance, would be responsible for synchronizing and integrating all cyber-electromagnetic activities into the maneuver commander’s plan.

At present, units do not have resident cyber experts, so commanders rely on EW, signals and intelligence officers who each may have some expertise on the matter and will come together and work, Ekvall said.

“The Army’s got to make a decision about whether there’s a requirement for ... a corps of cyberspace operators, just like there are electronic warfare operators,” Ekvall said. “The Army has to do the requisite analysis for how they’re going to man, train and equip a cyber force — if they are going to man, train and equip a cyber force.”

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