Senior Army Leaders Proclaim SLAD's Support to NIE 'Phenomenal'
ARL/SLAD cyber-threat team members Rodrigo Mendoza (front) Richard Coy (middle) and William Burge (back) conduct cyber warfare operations from their lab at White Sands Missile Range. (Photo by John Andrew Hamilton, ATEC)

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate (ARL/SLAD) concluded work on Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 13.1 at White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), New Mexico in mid-November 2012. They had completed their work on NIE 12.2 only months earlier. NIE 13.1 was the fourth in a series of twice-annual, Soldier-led events designed to evaluate the effectiveness of multiple networked devices in a tactical, operational test environment. The NIEs, of which the most recent event involved 3,800 Soldiers, are led by a group known as the Triad: The Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC), the Brigade Modernization Command, and ASA (ALT)'s System of Systems Integration Directorate.

Members of SLAD were involved in two distinct roles: to conduct analysis specific to electronic warfare (EW) survivability of the WIN-T program, and to evaluate computer systems' robustness to cyber threats.

Pete Bothner, a member of SLAD explains, "NIEs are operational test events that allow the evaluators to test how well specific systems operate." The basic questions the NIE helped the EW Communications Branch answer are: Does jamming have an effect? How did the troops respond? Were the troops able to overcome set circumstances?

"For example, it might be that a node is incapable or delayed because of adverse jamming conditions," elaborated Bothner.

A critical Army objective for the NIE events is to assess the network, systems, and Soldiers while they operate in the presence of a validated, persistent cyber threat, then conduct a cyber-threat assessment, and provide senior leadership of Army and DoD with vulnerability analyses to support technology acquisition decisions and procurements.

During NIE 12.2, the computer network operations (CNO) threat actors from SLAD and the Threat Systems Management Office portrayed various network threats with varying degrees of capability in order to measure the network's, systems', and Soldiers' capabilities to protect, detect, react, and restore.

"We are being faithful in representing a competent hacker," said Anthony Castañares, a member of SLAD.

NIE 12.2 presented a unique challenge and opportunity for the threat CNO team, because it was the first NIE in which open-network tests were approved in an operational test environment. SLAD personnel worked in teams at three locations. For their internal communication, the team setup real-time chat and secure-network tunnels to enable positive test control over the geographically scattered team assets.

"We deploy separate teams of subject-matter experts who will analyze the network in real time, study the responses from both Soldiers and live systems in real time, and go back and correlate all this data…then we go back to our logs and see what everyone did and what effects the attacks had," explained Castañares.

Due to the efforts of SLAD experts, the teams were able to demonstrate conclusively the potential combat power of a cyber-enabled adversary. In a note to Army leadership, the ATEC commander, MG Dellarocco, described SLAD's contributions to NIE 12.2 as "phenomenal."

NIE 13.1 recently concluded, and SLAD's teams were again involved, this time at both WSMR and Aberdeen Proving Ground. SLAD's electronic warfare communications staff was focused on the Joint Battle Command--Platform (JBC-P), which is the next evolution of Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below Blue Force Tracking (FBCB2-BFT).

According to the Army's Program Executive Office Command Control Communications-Tactical (PEO C3-T), JBC-P "will provide joint-centric, on-the-move, digital command and control and situational awareness to tactical combat, combat support, and combat service support leaders and Warfighters. It allows Warfighters to pass orders and graphics to visualize the commander's intent and scheme of maneuver."

In the months prior to NIE 13.1, SLAD analysts procured radios for lab tests. Now that NIE 13.1 has concluded they will use the data gathered to analyze JBC-P with regard to survivability; the results will be used to inform decision makers, so that the proper equipment can be produced to aid Soldiers on the battlefield.

The NIEs are just one example of evaluations in which SLAD offers analysis of survivability, lethality, and vulnerability. And they are a prime example of SLAD's providing an objective and valuable voice in the acquisition process.

-From The SLAD Bulletin, volume 1, issue 2, October 2012.

Page last updated Tue November 27th, 2012 at 16:06