VCSA's remarks at AUSA Hot Topic Army Cyber

By US ArmyNovember 4, 2016

Good afternoon to everyone and thank you for allowing me to join you to talk about this important topic. I must tell you… every time I speak at the Association of the United States Army… I marvel at the turnout. It leaves me with one question though: If all of you are here, who is minding the store? Given that most of you are still sleep-deprived from the World Series finale' this morning, I'm not going to promise anything, but I'll do my best to keep you energized.

In all seriousness, forums like these drive worthwhile dialogue… for our Army and for our Nation… and we are all here because these discussions are hugely valuable for our future. The group assembled here today reaffirms AUSA's proven capacity to convene the brightest minds, current speaker excluded of course, in addressing the most important topics facing our Army.

General Ham, thank you for your leadership and as always great to see you. And I promise not to pour salt in the wound about the Tribe's collapse after leading 3 games to 1… including games 6 and 7 at home. Hope springs eternal, and with your Red Sox transplant Tito Francona at the helm, there is always Next Year. Thank you as well to our other distinguished guests and to all of the panelists for your relevant, timely and insightful discussions.

This is a challenging time for our Nation and certainly for our Army. The stable unipolar moment is over, and replacing it is a multi-polar world characterized by competition. More and more people are leaving the country for the comforts of cities, increasing the demands on the State to provide basic necessities. Ongoing conflicts in places like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, combined with food and water shortages elsewhere, are driving cross-regional demographic changes. The resultant increase in refugees is fueling a backlash against so-called "others" and fomenting the rise of nationalism across the globe. At the same time, the rapid flow of information is creating new sources of wealth and… for millions… an improved standard of living while simultaneously expanding the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

These sweeping changes impact how we man, train, equip and organize our forces. We assess that all of the factors I just mentioned will combine to make future battlefields extraordinarily complex, multi-domain environments. Like those of years past, they will include operations in the air and on the ground, most likely in congested urban settings, but they will also be integrated with operations at sea, in space and in cyberspace. Into this environment Leaders of Character will prove decisive… men and women capable of commanding small, distributed formations against elusive and often ambiguous adversaries.

Because of the brave Soldiers who wear this uniform, I am confident that our Army will fight and win wherever our Nation asks, whenever our country calls. As leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that when that call comes… and it will come… our Soldiers have the right training, the right equipment and the right leadership at every echelon… to win. And that is why we're here today: to deliberately think through the challenges we face and act with foresight and relentless commitment to ensure our Army is ready for an uncertain future.

This uncertain future will no doubt include and be influenced by myriad activities in cyberspace. This domain… the only man-made one that exists… creates a vexing set of challenges. For starters, it is difficult to describe, let alone to conceptualize. The most seasoned strategists have struggled with how to tackle this emerging battleground. The good news is that we have made a great deal of progress and are determined to address the problem.

Historically, cyberspace operations have been the exclusive domain of a small group of technical professionals. Looking forward, we will diverge from the days when cyberspace operations were the discrete responsibility of someone at Fort Meade towards one where cyberspace represents part of our common battlefield framework in the Army. Put succinctly, our ability to dominate cyberspace operations is inextricably linked to Army readiness.

Today I will focus on three areas. First, I will reaffirm that cyber threats and vulnerabilities impact everything from communications and logistics to operations and Mission Command. This is our new normal, and our future readiness demands both understanding and action to succeed midst this new reality. Second, tactical cyber operations' proficiency…. that is cyber operations at the Corps-level and below… are critical if we are to maintain our technological edge against our adversaries, and this must guide how we train and operate. Finally, Cyber readiness is critical to mission assurance… that is the protection of our wartime equipment as well as our digital infrastructure… and this, frankly, is everyone's business… Leaders and Soldiers alike. It is incumbent on all of us to protect our systems and ourselves against the pervasive cyber threats we face on a daily basis.

As I said, cyber threats and vulnerabilities impact everything we do and, to adjust, we must act quickly, leveraging agile personnel, training and acquisition processes to adapt to new circumstances. Recognizing the importance of the issue, the Army has worked in earnest to develop solutions. General Creighton Abrams said... "People aren't in the Army. People are the Army," and in that spirit, we established a separate branch specifically for our cyber operations forces ... the Army's first new branch since Special Forces in 1987. From an initial start of 6 Officers in 2014 ... we have grown our Cyber Branch....Career Field 17 ... and today we have 397 Officers, 141 Warrant Officers and 560 Non-Commissioned Officers and Soldiers across the force.

And our Army is on track, fielding our Cyber Mission Force… from 41 Teams today to eventually 62 Total Force Teams so that our Joint Force can maintain freedom of maneuver in cyberspace. These forces are fully engaged… and the speed with which they deliver results speaks to the urgency of the cyber threat and their persistence and commitment to succeed.

We have coupled our recruitment effort with a wide breadth of training and professional military education programs. We have fundamentally changed our institutional capacity and processes to support Cyber force recruitment, training, education, and career development. Standing up our Cyber School in 2014, we graduated 21 officers from the Cyber Basic Officers Leadership Course this year and are on track to exceed this number in 2017. Other PME courses take place every day …. Officer, Warrant Officer and Non-Commissioned Officer. Most importantly, the first Cyber Operations Specialist Advanced Individual Training course, which includes 20 weeks of training, is set to begin in March 2017. This year more than 300 Soldiers will graduate from Cyber Center of Excellence courses… a number that will likely double in the coming year. Importantly, every graduate is trained to Joint and cryptologic standards because cyberspace is inherently joint.

We continue to pursue innovative solutions that will responsively support our warfighters. Working with departmental leadership, the Army is pursuing accelerated delivery timelines for cyber capabilities, as well as formal programs of record. The majority of our effort focuses on offensive and defensive cyber capabilities across infrastructure, platforms, and software tools, and we are leveraging rapid acquisition processes… things like Other Transaction Authority… to procure Defensive Cyber tools for our Cyber Protection Teams in theater so they can actively map and protect our diverse networks and, in the event of attack, conduct initial forensics on site. We are also pursuing infrastructure solutions, compatible with WIN-T…to provide tactical reachback support from home. Finally, we are pursuing software that will help analyze networks and threats, further strengthening our defenses and mitigating our vulnerabilities. Key to all of our efforts is rapid development and fielding.

Second, we must look for opportunities to integrate cyber capabilities at tactical echelons in support of joint and combined land operations. Initially we're focused on our Brigade Combat Teams, and we've placed two Cyberspace Officers in Brigade Combat Team staffs during two National Training Center rotations and one Joint Readiness Training Center rotation as part of our Cyber Support to Corps and Below pilot program, and results have been extremely positive. For example, the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Infantry Division used Cyberspace Officers to execute an integrated offensive cyber and electronic warfare attack and, leveraging these individuals' unique capabilities, conducted a strong network defense against cyberattack during their recent July NTC rotation. Other BCTs, including 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division and 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division experienced similar results.

Looking ahead, we must also view every training event… including Joint and Combined events… as opportunities for integrated cyberspace and electronic warfare operations. The network is a warfighting platform… it enables kinetic and non-kinetic operations and demands intelligence, planning, maneuver and leadership. In the future, we will fight routinely against cyber-enabled adversaries…therefore we must take every opportunity to integrate cyberspace and electronic warfare operations into our tactical planning cycles.

Numerous obstacles remain…for example the lack of bilateral and multilateral agreements create interoperability challenges with our multi-national partners while Federal Aviation Administration restrictions make it exceedingly difficult to routinely train in a contested electro-magnetic environment. These are just two examples. Nevertheless, we must overcome existing policy and legal restrictions so that our Soldiers can fully exploit cyber and EW capabilities while applying routine force protection in order to excel in the multi-domain environment in which we operate.

Finally, Cyber readiness is now a crucial component of Army strategic readiness and critical to Mission Assurance…that is the protection of our wartime equipment as well as our digital infrastructure. Our military, like society, operates on a network of systems. Virtually everything we own and operate… from our hand-held global positioning systems, cell phones and computers to Apache helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and multiple launch rocket system software…. are connected to networks. This means they are vulnerable to attack. Army networks are under constant threat from nation-states, criminals and others. The Department of Defense estimates its networks are probed millions of times every month… looking for a weak link. Commanders and Soldiers must know their key cyber terrain, understand the risk at each level, where essential data resides, and take necessary steps to reduce the threat.

Therefore, part of mission assurance is simply embracing a culture of cybersecurity. A leading cyber security firm noted that 91% of incidents they responded to in the past year were the direct result of operator error….mostly spearphishing. Gone are the days when cyber was done by a small cadre of technical experts. Today, every Soldier is a Cyber Warrior, and that means that every one of us must understand how the cyber domain impacts ourselves and our operations… both offensively and defensively… and how to reduce our vulnerabilities.

This business is tough because, frankly, we are waging a cyber war every day while concurrently building the force and infrastructure to accomplish current and future missions. Cyberspace operations though… piercing through a virtual domain… start first with people. Therefore our guiding principle… our lodestar… for Army Cyberspace operations must be on developing Leaders of Character. Here, our Army is on the right track. The young Soldiers, Non Commissioned Officers and Officers operating across our force are resilient, adaptable and capable of leading through change.

The story of Staff Sergeant Matthew Decker, an Army Reserve flight medic, illustrates the point and the reason that cyber readiness is so important. One morning last September, Staff Sergeant Decker was awoken in Afghanistan and notified that American troops were in contact. A Special Forces A-Team, advising local security forces, was in an intense firefight. Soon Staff Sergeant Decker's headquarters received a 9-line MEDEVAC request and he departed in a UH-60 Blackhawk.

Upon the MEDEVAC's arrival, the A-Team and their partner forces were nearly surrounded and engaged in a heavy firefight. The volume of fire was so intense that the pilot crash landed after clipping the rotor blades on a building. Staff Sergeant Decker, upon exiting, rendered aid to a Soldier who had sustained a gunshot wound through the thigh. The wounded Soldier had lost so much blood that Staff Sergeant Decker didn't know whether he would survive let alone keep his leg. He treated his patient amidst the chaos of small arms, artillery and AC130 Gunship fire. After nearly 18 hours on the ground, US forces were running low on ammo… the good news was that…. after a blood transfusion and multiple tourniquets… Staff Sergeant Decker's patient was stabilized. Shortly thereafter, four Chinooks arrived to evacuate all the Soldiers, including the wounded.

Staff Sergeant Decker recently notified us that the wounded Soldier is doing great. He recently ran two miles in just over 16 minutes and should be back on jump status soon. Thanks to Staff Sergeant Decker and the swift response of that MEDEVAC… he retains both his legs.

The vignette I just described took place in Afghanistan…in the town of Marjah to be exact… a place where the Taliban is strong but one where we enjoy information dominance in the cyberspace domain. But consider what the outcome might have been had a regional adversary… one with significant cyberspace and electronic warfare capabilities… challenged our superiority. For example, an enemy attack on our communications network could have prevented the 9-line MEDEVAC from being relayed in a timely manner… or worse… manipulated the data in a way that caused the responders to go to the wrong place or with the wrong equipment. Enemy electronic warfare operations could jam GPS signals, making identifying friendly troops on the objective near impossible. And an electro-magnetic attack against our UH-60 helicopters on-board software could cause a catastrophic crash. We have already seen the impact of Russian cyber and electronic warfare operations in Ukraine. Going forward, these are the considerations that will guide our preparation for future battlefields.

So as we continue our Cyber discussions, focus first on Soldiers and their missions. In the current operational environment, cyber capabilities are easily copied or countered. What gives the United States Army a comparative advantage over our adversaries is our skilled Soldiers and well-trained teams who optimize all of their assets…across all domains…to achieve mission success. It's all about the Soldier.

Lieutenant General Nakasone and his team understand all this and I'm glad he could join us today. Paul, you are a seasoned cyber warrior. Thanks for your continued leadership on behalf of our Army... Our Soldiers are counting on you and those who work for you… and we know that you will sustain Army Cyber force momentum in support of the Joint Force.

Before I open it up for questions, I will leave you with two guiding thoughts. First, our Army has led through change before and the challenges facing us today can be overcome with positive, innovative Leaders of Character at every echelon. Second, we are the greatest Army in the World, and we are committed to remaining the best for years to come. We will do so by operating as a Team… a Total Force… partnered with the great patriots like those of you in the audience.

Thank you again. God Bless You. And Army Strong!