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CHIPS Articles: DISA prepares warfighters for future multi-domain conflicts

DISA prepares warfighters for future multi-domain conflicts
By DISA News - March 13, 2019
“We need to set the globe,” Navy Vice Adm. Nancy A. Norton, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and commander of the Joint Force Headquarters – DoD Information Network, told her combined workforce during a Feb. 21 town hall.

“Setting the globe” means anticipating warfighters’ future needs and approaching the agency’s combat support mission with a global mindset instead of a theater-specific strategy.

This planning method aligns with the joint force readiness requirements laid out in the 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) and the DoD Cyber Strategy, Norton said.

During the past 18 months, DISA’s Operations Center has led an agencywide effort to examine DISA’s ability to support the warfighter against a near-peer competitor in an all-domain, trans-regional fight, said DISA’s chief of plans, Army Lt. Col. Blair Sawyer.

Sawyer said DISA is currently involved in four major planning efforts supporting two combatant commands.

“DISA has largely provided analysis and products to support the new globally integrated campaign and contingency planning concept directed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” he said.

This new planning concept helps integrate the joint force for engagement with long-term strategic competitors, principally China and Russia — as well as other competitors, such as North Korea, Iran, and violent extremist organizations. It also defines proposed tactics to fight and win global conflicts in the future.

Developing these plans requires a holistic and integrated review process designed to improve unity of effort and mission assurance, while shifting the focus of planning from theater-specific to a global problem-focused approach, said Sawyer.

“DISA primarily builds its customers’ peacetime capabilities for day-to-day command and control,” said Sawyer. “Our mission now is to go to those customers and ask, ‘What will you need in regard to these capabilities in a wartime environment?’ For example, if a command processes 400,000 emails worth of data each day across the theater in peacetime, then this requirement will drastically increase in a wartime environment.”

Adapting to those changing needs is one of the top priorities laid out in the NDS, said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford at a speaking engagement in 2018. The general said part of his tenure has been focused on developing tools to combat cyber threats, and that he is, “Somebody who is never complacent with where we are.”

In order for the military to be successful, we’ve got to be able to project power to an area … and then once we’re there, we’ve got to be able to freely maneuver across all domains … sea, air, land, space, and cyberspace, said Dunford.

To ensure the latter, DISA is linking the business development side of DISA to the planning side, said Phil La Perla, civilian deputy of the cyber operations directorate.

“Bringing all the planners together in a joint planning group gives everyone a common operational picture and situational awareness for warfighter requirements,” he said.

Transitioning to this proactive thought process is especially important in today’s environment, added Sawyer.

“Continuously advancing technologies have signaled a paradigm shift in how battles and future wars are fought and won, Sawyer said. “We have to shift with them.”

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