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CHIPS Articles: Vice Adm. Ted Branch: Sea Change in Information Warfare

Vice Adm. Ted Branch: Sea Change in Information Warfare
By Sharon Anderson, CHIPS senior editor - April-June 2016
Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare, Vice Adm. Ted N. “Twig” Branch, said the Navy has had a sea change in how it perceives information technology, cyber communications and networks. The admiral spoke to a standing-room only audience in the Information Warfare Pavilion at the Sea-Air-Space Exposition in National Harbor, Maryland, May 16.

The goal of the IW pavilion is to educate conference attendees on all facets of Navy information warfare, including the key commands that lead, acquire, prepare and fight to secure the information domain. The pavilion was primarily hosted by OPNAV N2N6, Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet, Navy Information Forces Command, and Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR). Exhibitors were on hand to discuss and demonstrate the Navy’s commitment to warfighting in the information age.

Information Warfare

The sea change in mindset, Admiral Branch said, is a natural progression of events beginning with the stand-up and merging of N2 and N6 in 2009 and the subsequent establishment of the Information Dominance Corps. The stand-up of the IDC was an unprecedented organizational change, in which professionals from the intelligence, information professional, information warfare, meteorology and oceanography communities, and members of the space cadre were combined under the leadership of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (N2/N6). This transformation resulted in an aggregated, unified corps of professionals that produced precise, timely warfighting decisions.

As the IDC matured and the ID commands operationalized cyber/IT, it became clear that the term “information dominance” was not an accurate designation, Branch explained. CNO Adm. John Richardson said that information dominance implied that the Navy had achieved a state of dominance, pencils down, there was no work left to be done.

In view of the CNO’s concern and recognizing that cyber is the fifth warfighting domain and of equal importance as the other domains: air, sea, land and space, Branch directed in February that the 52,000 member-strong Information Dominance Corps, be renamed the Information Warfare Community. At the same time, his title was changed to Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare (N2N6).

Admiral Branch wrote, “This redesignation reflects the rising influence of global information systems and the increasing rate of technological creation and adoption, as reflected in the CNO’s “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority.”

The transition signifies information warfare as a predominant warfare area which is fully ingrained in naval operations, Branch said. (See Figure 1.)

Information warfare as a warfighting domain is now accepted by the traditional warfare communities, such as Surface Warfare, Submarine Warfare and Air Warfare, Branch said, and not “just as enablers” for the other warfighting domains.

To further advance IW concepts, the Navy is standing up its first Navy Information Warfare Development Center in Suffolk, Virginia, with initial operating capability (IOC) slated for 2017, the admiral explained.

Electromagnetic Maneuver Warfare

The admiral described the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum and cyber warfare as the terrain in which IW practitioners operate with the goal of expanding the electromagnetic maneuver warfare (EMW) concept to encompass all information warfare that includes space and cyberspace. (See Figure 2.)

The four EMW tenets are based on the three pillars of Information Warfare — Battlespace Awareness, Assured Command & Control, and Integrated Fires — and adds maneuver within the electromagnetic spectrum, the admiral explained. (See Figure 3.)

“The EMW concept aligns with the CNO’s campaign design and is the Navy's approach to deliver military effects through the electromagnetic spectrum at a time and place of our choosing,” Branch said. EMW allows battlespace awareness through sensing to exploit adversary vulnerabilities and environmental conditions for deception, stealth and maneuver. EMW enables assured C2 and protection, maneuver, and distributed fires, he explained.

Further evolving the EMW maneuver concept includes developing advanced algorithms for adaptive spectrum systems such as software defined radios and advanced waveforms that can bounce from one frequency to another to ensure continued operations, in the case of jamming or overcrowded frequencies.

The admiral emphasized the critical impact of EMW to operations and the CNO’s direction to resolve interoperability standards and specifications to maximize information sharing among platforms, sensors and weapons with the ultimate goal of fully netted sensors that can send target data from any sensor to any weapon. “Getting this right will be key to future operations,” Branch said.

In developing these capabilities, the question is the authority to use cyber effects against an adversary, Branch said. Right now this authority is held at a very high level, he said. Discussion is ongoing across the national security establishment regarding threat levels and the corresponding authorities for engagement.

The admiral said commanders now recognize that cyber is their responsibility, and he enumerated the courses and training available to assist commanders in fulfilling cyber requirements.

“Information is a warfare domain and cyber is as important as the next missile or platform…it’s now commander’s business, and requires an all-hands effort and a cultural change throughout DoD,” Branch said.

“One of our goals is to update the information warfare strategy and reconcile cyber joint doctrine because each of the services uses different terms for the same things,” Branch explained.

Information Assurance and Embracing Innovation

Vice Adm. Branch cited the significance of ensuring the integrity of the supply chain as one of the information assurance initiatives resulting from the CYBERSAFE program. The CYBERSAFE program was set-up in 2014 to assess the survivability and resiliency of critical warfighting information systems and platforms.

CYBERSAFE is modeled after SUBSAFE which is the rigorous submarine safety program begun after the loss of USS Thresher in 1963. Like the submarine program, CYBERSAFE will harden critical warfighting components, which could also be computer systems or parts of the network. In brief, the CYBERSAFE model precepts are: Protect – strengthen assets against threats; Detect – identify and assess adversary actions; React – fight through with pre-emptive or reactive measures; and Restore – restore assets to normal operations. (See Figure 4.)

“Resilient communication systems and cybersecurity includes the ability to protect networks, react to an intrusion and restore operations in a timely manner,” Branch said. “Building a firewall is not enough, we need network sensors, the ability to segment the network and fight through the threat.” He equated the effort to the “damage control” that is done on ships in the case of flooding, fire or other mishap.

“The systems commands (SPAWAR, Naval Sea Systems Command) are developing standards of information assurance… in the future Sailors will be documenting each component in each installation on ships, doing quality check verifications,” Branch said. Assessing each part in the supply chain with assurance, to determine if it is loaded with malware, where it came from, and who touched it, is at an immature stage but it is coming, Branch explained.

Branch said the Information Warfare Community is promoting innovation and the CNO’s speed to fleet concept for prototypes and acceptance for early failure. “We are not in the lead but we certainly embrace that thought. We do spiral development and not just for desktop technology, like firewalls,” he said.

The Navy is also working to mature relationships within the NATO Five Eyes (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and the United States) with common standards for better interoperability, Branch said. “Nations will want to use their own homegrown technology but interoperability and CONOPS will be tested in exercises like Joint Warrior and RIMPAC… We need everyone wired to the fight.”

National Harbor, Md. (May 16, 2016) Vice Adm. Ted N. Branch, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare and Director of Naval Intelligence (N2N6) discusses the future of information warfare with a large audience in the Navy Information Warfare Pavilion at the Sea, Air and Space (SAS). SAS, sponsored by the U.S. Navy League, is the world's largest maritime exposition and provides a venue of interaction between the maritime defense industry and U.S and international military organizations.  U.S. Navy photo by Rick Naystatt/Released
National Harbor, Md. (May 16, 2016) Vice Adm. Ted N. Branch, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare and Director of Naval Intelligence (N2N6) discusses the future of information warfare with a large audience in the Navy Information Warfare Pavilion at the Sea, Air and Space (SAS). SAS, sponsored by the U.S. Navy League, is the world's largest maritime exposition and provides a venue of interaction between the maritime defense industry and U.S and international military organizations. U.S. Navy photo by Rick Naystatt/Released

Figure 1. Adding Structure to Navy Cybersecurity. Graph by OPNAV N2N6
Figure 1. Adding Structure to Navy Cybersecurity. Graph by OPNAV N2N6

Figure 2. Electromagnetic Maneuver Warfare Overview. Graph by N2N6
Figure 2. Electromagnetic Maneuver Warfare Overview. Graph by N2N6

Figure 3. Electromagnetic Maneuver Warfare Key Capabilities. Graph by OPNAV N2N6
Figure 3. Electromagnetic Maneuver Warfare Key Capabilities. Graph by OPNAV N2N6

Figure 4. CYBERSAFE. Graph by OPNAV N2N6
Figure 4. CYBERSAFE. Graph by OPNAV N2N6
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