The U.S. Army’s top Cyber, Intelligence and Signal officers joined a U.S. senator, the Army’s chief civilian cyber advisor and a cyber company executive recently to discuss information advantage and the future of Army cyber.
The discussion was part of a panel at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) annual meeting last month in Washington, D.C.
The discussion was moderated by Army Signal officer Gen. (Ret.) Dennis Via.
“What threats exist today and are anticipated in the future that are driving the evolution of tactical, operational and strategic capabilities in the information dimension?,” Via asked the panel.
Lt. Gen. Laura Potter, the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-2, said the Army’s intelligence teams are concentrating on cyber capabilities across a wide range of threats, including China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.
“If I zoom in on General Via’s question to the threat, we know when it comes to the department’s primary pacing challenge – China -- that they have policy, strategy, doctrine. They have invested science and technology dollars, and they have put into practice, through their three warfare strategies, the ability to contest us across that full spectrum that this panel addresses. From very sophisticated, high-end cyber threats that can impact our weapons systems, they can hold critical infrastructure at risk. And that can be critical infrastructure that sows panic in time of crisis. It could be critical infrastructure that is at risk when we have to project power out of the continental United States,” Potter said. “And on the disinformation side, it really is a global strategy. In the middle, you have both state-affiliated and state-sponsored hacking and criminal activities. And those have been targeted against countries throughout the Indo-Pacific Command area of operation.”
Lt. Gen. Maria Barrett, commander of the United States Army Cyber Command, said she is most concerned with the speed of America’s adversaries in exploiting cyber vulnerabilities.
“From my perspective looking at the threat, the thing that has been really amazing, having watched this for several years … (is) just the speed of exploitation now. It’s from the time that a researcher finds something to when it is actively being exploited,” Barrett said. “And we used to care about who exploited something … some of these actors are loosely affiliated with nation-states and some of them are criminal. There are very blurry lines, but the effect is the same. And so communicating to the rest of the Army commanders out there, ‘Hey, we really do need to pay attention to this, and we need to be paying attention now.’ How do you get ahead of that? (It) also lends itself to thinking about the traditional ways we have been informed about these things a little bit differently. We can use the traditional intelligence sources to do that, but there is a plethora of information out there in the public sphere that also enables us to see further.”
Intrusion Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer Tony Scott said his main concern is communicating with government officials about what American companies are supposed to accept when it comes to cyber attacks from foreign governments.
“One of the big challenges right now is trying to understand how to work with the U.S. government from a corporate perspective,” Scott said. “What constitutes an act of war? What disruption should I tolerate and be able to absorb as a for-profit institution?”
U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the subcommittee on cybersecurity, said what he and other elected officials can do to aid America’s military in the cyber arena is to give the service branches the funding they need.
“We come at this from the perspective of whether or not we have provided the appropriate authorities and the appropriate appropriations so that the (military branches) can do their job,” Rounds said.
The panel also discussed the state and future of information advantage.
“As we start thinking about sensor/shooter/data and leveraging all of this, just internal to our own Army operations, how is the commander going to sense, understand, decide, act and assess faster than the adversary and create those windows to exploit?” Barrett asked. “You will see these linkages between multi-domain operations, linking the human information in physical domains that we fight in, and this is going to be really focused on that information. How do you get a positional advantage in the information -- not the physical domain, but the information domain? And it starts with the commander having those tools in order to do his decision making.”
Lt. Gen. John Morrison, the Army Deputy Chief of Staff, G-6, agreed.
“I’m going to try and simplify information advantage. Because simply at its core, it’s all about decision dominance. And Lieutenant General Barrett laid it all out. Can a commander understand the environment faster than their adversaries? Can they decide to do something about it faster than their adversary? Can they act? And then can they assess?” Morrison asked. “It can’t be done in silos. The work that Lieutenant General Barrett and I are focused on is making sure we unify all aspects of the network. It can’t be the way we were approaching it before, where it was enterprise and tactical and neither the two shall meet. It’s got to be one capability, so we can bring the unbelievable strategic and operational capabilities of our intel enterprise to bear. And underpin all that with a data architecture that is in the right spot at the right time for the right commander. It’s a little bit different than right sense of the shooter. It’s really about getting it to the right commanders so they can do something with it fast.”
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