Academic journal article Military Review

Cyberspace Situational Understanding for Tactical Army Commanders: The Army Is Swinging for the Fence, but It Just Needs a Single

Academic journal article Military Review

Cyberspace Situational Understanding for Tactical Army Commanders: The Army Is Swinging for the Fence, but It Just Needs a Single

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I never blame myself when I'm not hitting. I just blame the bat, and if it keeps up, I change bats. (1)

--Yogi Berra

When developing capabilities, the Army could use a little of Yogi Berra's paradoxical wisdom that quickly gets to the heart of almost any matter. Like asking, "If Army tactical commanders are utterly dependent on cyberspace, then why do they have no way of seeing it?" All U.S. Army cyber capabilities ride on some kind of network, yet there is almost no means to provide real-time situational understanding of the cyberspace domain for tactical combat units. (2) This leaves tactical commanders blind to potential cyberspace threats and opportunities, lessens their ability to defend their own networks, and places traditional forms of combat power at risk.

The Army is keenly aware of this predicament and considers cyberspace situational understanding (cyber SU) a top priority, but a technological solution to bring a cyber SU system to conventional combat units seems years away. (3) At present, the Army is simply struggling to define precisely what tactical commanders need to know about cyberspace. What's more, even after the Army figures out what it wants cyber SU to be, it must survive the realpolitik of the acquisition process. Even the best capability proposals can become watered down, distorted, or combined with other programs, resulting in less than ideal outcomes. Moreover, it is not uncommon for capability developers, in an attempt to create a solution that does it all, to make requirements so stringent and complex that the entire effort becomes paralyzed. All of these scenarios can lead to protracted timelines or solutions that are marginal or even obsolete before reaching initial operational capability. This article details why the Army's pursuit of cyber SU is stagnant and recommends a simplified approach toward fixing it.

A Justified Need for Cyber SU

I want to thank you for making this day necessary. (4)

--Yogi Berra

Any discussion of a better approach toward acquiring a cyber SU system must first begin with proof that such a system is needed, and there is plenty of evidence to support that it is. The Department of Defense's (DOD) Joint Concept for Cyberspace states that shared situational awareness of cyberspace is one of eight key elements to joint cyberspace operations. (5) This concept gave birth to the Joint Cyber Situational Awareness Initial Capabilities Document, which describes requirements for situational awareness of cyberspace at strategic echelons. (6) Coincidentally, much of the same information applicable at joint strategic echelons is also relevant at Army tactical echelons, where the Army has asserted that its need for cyber SU is most urgent. (7)

The U.S. Army Capstone Concept asserts that in order to maintain an advantage in cyberspace, the future Army must provide a capability for leaders and soldiers that helps them to understand how and when adversaries employ cyberspace capabilities, and how to respond. (8) It also recommends investments in mission command capabilities and systems that allow the Army to network the force and improve common situational understanding in order to gain and maintain a cyber electromagnetic activities advantage. (9) The U.S. Army Operating Concept identifies key capability development areas focused on science and technology initiatives to provide increased commanders' situational understanding through common operational pictures down to the tactical edge. This, it states, "may help commanders gain and maintain a position of relative advantage across the contested cyberspace domain and electromagnetic spectrum" (10)

Joint and Army doctrine publications also point toward the need for cyber SU. JP 3-12(R), Cyberspace Operations, explicitly states that cyberspace operations depend upon "current and predictive knowledge of cyberspace and the operational environment (OE)" (11) ADRP 6-0, Mission Command, stresses the importance of the common operating picture (COP) in building situational understanding. …

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