Defending networks emerges as top battlefield priority.

Author:Magnuson, Stew
Position:Industry Viewpoint

* The first target Russia or China will go after in a shooting war may not be an F-35, an air base, or even an aircraft carrier. These peer competitors will probably attempt to take down the U.S. military's communications enterprise first.

And if they don't succeed on the first day, they will attempt to do so again, again and again, senior defense leaders recently said.

"Our adversaries will intentionally and frequently try to take down our network as an asymmetric means to get after our combat power. They are going to do it," said William T, Lasher, deputy chief of staff, G-6, at U.S. Army Forces Command headquarters.

"We are watching them do it in other areas, so we know this is coming," he said at the Milcom conference in Baltimore, Maryland.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley in October introduced the multi-domain battlefield concept, where he said ground forces of the future would have to be prepared to fight in the air, at sea and cyberspace.

Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison, commanding general of Fort Gordon, Georgia, and the U.S. Army cyber center of excellence, said the latter will be a challenge.

"We will be operating against a near peer in a congested and contested environment. ... Quite frankly, we have seen some of these near peers bringing integrated capabilities to the battlefield and having tremendous operational effects," he said.

Milley's vision "flips how the Army operates in the future on its head," said Morrison. It recognizes that cyberspace is an operational domain that the Army needs to maneuver in, he added.

To that end, the Army is bring its cyber, electronic warfare and signals capabilities under one command, a Cyber Directorate located at the Pentagon, he said. While that is the beginning of a doctrinal and organizational construct, there is a lot of work to do on the technical side, where systems created separately in silos means that integration has a long way to go.

"The technologies we deployed with to Iraq in 2003, 2004 and 2005 are nothing like what we have today," Morrison said. One of the major differences is that strategic and tactical communications networks are now blended. There has been progress protecting the network on the higher end, but not so much on the tactical side, he said.

For example, the creation of joint regional security stacks has taken the number of security enclaves from about 1,000 down to the 20s, he said. That reduces the portals and avenues of attack for adversaries on the Non-classified Internet...

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