Conference helps military attorneys understand legal considerations of operations in the information environment
Soldiers of the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade establish a location to conduct cyberspace operations during a training rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., June 6, 2018. Military operations in the information environme... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Approximately 100 military attorneys from across the Army and the joint force participated in a conference aimed at increasing their knowledge of the legal considerations associated with military operations in the information environment, at the U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER) headquarters at Fort Belvoir, Va., Dec. 9-11.

The conference was hosted by the ARCYBER Office of the Staff Judge Advocate (SJA) and the Center for Law and Military Operations, a joint, interagency, multinational center focused on legal issues in military operations and developing military legal doctrine and capabilities.

The conference provided Army legal officers with a baseline understanding of Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) and related legal authorities and issues, and conveyed the importance of including CEMA-related considerations in their support to commanders and operations, said Maj. Ian Klinkhamer of the ARCYBER SJA. Most Army attorneys are more familiar with conventional arms than with information operations, cyberspace operations and electronic warfare, he explained, so the event let participants know what's going on in the information environment and some of the related legal issues.

The goal is to develop awareness of the kinds of scenarios that might be encountered and expose legal officers to those scenarios during training and exercises, before they have to deal with those issues in the real world. ARCYBER SJA personnel also participate in rotational training at the Army's Combat Training Centers to help unit attorneys develop their related knowledge and skills.

While training is something of a perfect environment, where meeting training objectives may require granting authorities and approving actions differently than in the real world, the major said it still helps unit attorneys understand potential issues and analyze facts on the ground -- to know what to look for, what they must think through, and where to find answers to enable their commanders' intent and operations.

Because it would be impossible to teach the almost limitless number of authorities involved in CEMA operations in widely varying operational environments worldwide, Klinkhamer said the conference focused on concepts that can help unit attorneys assist commanders in developing approaches and solutions for defending against threats in the information environment, that respect appropriate authorities and the law. That applies not only to things a commander might do to mitigate threats in offensive or large-scale operations against a peer or near-peer adversary, but also to defensive and internal actions such as establishing appropriate policies to protect a unit from risk, within the boundaries of law, policy and its commander's authority.

In addition to the legal considerations of CEMA operations, the major explained that there are some cornerstones of operations in the information environment that unit attorneys need to understand to be effective.

Unlike other arenas of military operations, he said, CEMA is very active throughout the competition/conflict spectrum, and military operations and training face continual real-world threats from adversaries in the information environment. He used artillery operations as an example.

"You're only shooting artillery or firing rounds at the enemy or the adversary in conflict, (but) CEMA plays in competition, in conflict and return to competition, and so you're going to have to do some legal work throughout the spectrum of conflict and competition -- not just in the 'shooting war,' if you will -- because on a daily basis we're in hyper-competition with our adversaries in the information environment and we encounter these legal issues routinely."

Attorneys and commanders must also understand that CEMA-related threats aren't always about hacking practices such as network intrusions or the spreading of malware by adversaries. In fact, Klinkhamer said, those activities are just one small segment of a much larger campaign of information operations that uses the normal processes of online and social media to create false narratives that threaten operations, and whose mitigation may have legal implications and require legal processes.

One other important consideration the major said he likes to stress is that to mitigate CEMA risks, organizations can't have "stovepipes of excellence".

"All these things need to be integrated," he said. "You can't just have the 'cyber person' and the 'information person' and the 'armor person" ... in conflict everything needs to work together to achieve the effects the commander needs to achieve."



U.S. Army Cyber Command integrates and conducts full-spectrum cyberspace operations, electronic warfare, and information operations, ensuring freedom of action for friendly forces in and through the cyber domain and the information environment, while denying the same to our adversaries.

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