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CHIPS Articles: IW Has a Seat at the Table

IW Has a Seat at the Table
Information Warfare Commanders Harness IW Disciplines
By Jacky Fisher, NAVIFOR Public Affairs Office - October 20, 2020
SUFFOLK, Va. – Taking a seat at the Composite Warfare Commander’s (CWC) table alongside traditional Warfare Commanders is the Information Warfare (IW) Commander. As the IW discipline engages across the spectrum of competition-conflict, particularly in cyberspace, the need for this change was clear and imperative to operate successfully in this information-intense environment.

Looking to the future in a February 2018 C4ISRNET interview, the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, outlined the IW environment when he was Fleet Cyber/10th Fleet commander. “The way we view the (IW) environment now is in the domains of space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum all merged together. And that invisible battlespace is an area that we have to optimize to win in the future,” said Gilday. “We’re starting to do that now by organizing those functions … so that we’re taking advantage of all of those disciplines.”

In response to the increasing threat and demand signal for IW capabilities, the evolution of the IW Commander started in the early 2000s with the establishment of the Information Operations Warfare Commander. The Information Dominance Corps (IDC) was formed in 2009 and created a path for both commissioned and non-commissioned officers to earn a warfare qualification like those earned by surface, submarine, aviation, and other warrior communities.

In February 2016, Naval Information Dominance Forces officially changed names to Naval Information Forces (NAVIFOR) to stay in step with a directive by Vice Adm. Ted Branch, then Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare and Director of Naval Intelligence, who replaced the term “information dominance” with “information warfare.”

The IDC followed suit and became the IW Community, or IWC.

Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10 agreed to conduct a Limited Objective Experiment (LOE) in 2015 to integrate the first IW Commander into the Composite Warfare Commander construct. The ball rolled fast in 2016. The IW Flag Panel approved the IW Commander plan in July, and by Nov. 1, the CSG IW Commander screening board was complete. Within two years, eight of the nine CSGs had screened IW Commanders for their staffs.

“The Navy cannot fight and win in this information age and the era of the great power competition without the capabilities that the Information Warfare Community provides,” said Vice Adm. Brian B. Brown, commander, NAVIFOR. “IW is a warfighting discipline, a set of warfighting capabilities, and a key enabler for all Navy mission areas. It underpins every warfighting domain from sea to land, to air, to undersea, to cyber, to space. The integration of the IW Commander shows that IW is no longer an afterthought, but a critical part of the warfighting fabric.”

The Information Environment (IE) is the key battlespace in response to both the Department of the Navy and the National Defense Strategy requirement to develop options for full-spectrum competition.

Divided into two areas, the cyberspace domain and the electromagnetic environment, the IE operational battlespace used by military forces is the Electromagnetic Battle Space (EMBS) (Figure 1).

The IW Commander’s responsibility to the CWC is twofold. First, is to create the ability to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision-making abilities of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting friendly forces. Secondly, is the ability to access the IE to support warfare commanders’ objectives in accordance with the CWC’s direction. Harnessing and integrating mission-specific IW disciplines as appropriate, assigned to one of three cells - Battlespace Awareness (BA), Integrated Fires (IF), and Assured Command and Control (AC2) - is how those tasks are accomplished (Figure 2).

Working together to provide direction and facilitate synergy among the IW disciplines, Battlespace Awarenes, Integrated Fires and Assured Command & Control, the IW Commander and the Deputy (DIWC), conduct information warfare at sea while simultaneously improving the mission effectiveness of the other warfare commanders. The DIWC is selected from the leading CSG staff IW officers and could be the N2, the N6, the N39, or the Meteorology and Oceanography Officer (METOC).

Capt. Sean Kelley, NAVIFOR’s Chief of Staff, recently served as CSG 10’s IW Commander for more than a year. Kelley said the tour was both professionally challenging and rewarding. “The IW Commander is a valued member at the CWC table, bringing decision advantage to the CSG mission set,” said Kelley. “That is what we offer with the IW communities afloat. The IW Commander construct comes together to be an effective tool for the high-end fight challenges we face today.”

Preparation to be eligible for an IW Commander position begins at the O4 level. Having successfully met all O4 and O5 career milestones, where applicable, one must be actively pursuing or have already successfully completed O6 career milestones.

Kelley pointed out that all the at-sea O4 and O5 billets are screen selected so it is not too early to start lining up the right tours. “Actively seek tours that will groom you for the future like CAG AI (Carrier Air Group Aviation Intel), CSG N21, COMMO, METOC, CRC (Cryptologic Resource Coordinator) or serve as one of the ‘three amigos’ – BA, IF, or AC2. Any at-sea tour will prepare you for an IW Commander billet.”

Another milestone to strive to accomplish is the Warfare Tactics Instructor, or WTI. This 10-week course offered at Naval Information Warfighting Development Center (NIWDC) is open to officers, enlisted, and civilians assigned to IW commands. Rear Adm. Mike Vernazza, commander, NIWDC speaks to the value of WTIs in the fleet. “The WTI designation says that individual has demonstrated the tactical excellence and skills necessary to inform, evaluate, and assess integrated Information Warfare doctrine, planning, tactics, and operations. They are an IW force multiplier in that invisible battlespace the CNO refers to.”

Having served as CSG 8’s N2, Kelley felt his previous tours set him up for success to serve as the IW Commander. “It’s a bonus chance to get back to sea as an O6, and CSG is where it’s at for the high-end fight for the Navy. I can’t think of a more exciting opportunity,” Kelley said.

An en route-training track is available to give an IW Commander selectee an in-depth knowledge of all the IW disciplines. NIWDC in Norfolk, Virginia, conducts part of that training. In response to the fleet's demand for improved IW training, tactics and procedures, NIWDC became operational in March 2017. There IWC Sailors and officers learn to better integrate IW into the other domains and disciplines.

Previous tours will dictate what sort of training may be required before reporting as an IW Commander.

“I felt like I needed more exposure to the IT side as well as the Information and Communications Managers Course that prepares a communications officer about fleet comms while at sea,” Kelley said. “Dan Kenda (NIWDC IWC Fleet Training Officer) built the training track that was balanced, based on past experience and the time available between duty stations with courses offered at NIWDC at the time.”

Kelley also stated that it was beneficial to conduct office calls with all the O6 and above leadership in the Hampton Roads area and on the Norfolk or San Diego waterfronts.

“You want the best of the best out there, officers and enlisted, providing that decision advantage,” said Kelley. “That’s what it’s all about. Making those critical resource decisions as to whether or not you are going to get those ships to sea, where you’re going to go, and how it all is going to flow.”

NIWDC is the Navy’s IW tactical center of excellence, which enhances fleet high-end warfighting capabilities and readiness across the operational and tactical levels of war. For more information on the IW Commander program, email Mr. Daniel Kenda at

NAVIFOR’s mission is to generate, directly, and through our leadership of the IW Enterprise, agile and technically superior manned, trained, equipped, and certified combat-ready IW forces to ensure our Navy will decisively DETER, COMPETE, and WIN.

For more information about NAVIFOR, visit the command's website at, Navy News webpage at or Facebook page at

Officer’s Information Warfare Specialist (IWS) pin and the Enlisted IWS pin. (U.S. Navy photo by Gary Nichols / released)
Figure 1. The Competition-Conflict Spectrum for the Military Dimension of Power. Navy concepts and capabilities should improve our ability to respond to an adversary across the spectrum from day to day operations, to escalation, to lethal combat. (Graphic from NIWDC IW Commander presentation / released)
Figure 2. Integration of IW disciplines to support Battlespace Awareness, Integrated Fires and Assured Command and Control. Acronyms not mentioned in the article: IPOE: Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment; OPINTEL: Operational Intelligence; ISR: Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; EMCON: Emission Control; MILDEC: Military Deception; OPSEC: Operational Security; MISO: Military Information Support Operations; and GCCS-M: Global Command and Control System – Maritime. (Graphic from NIWDC IW Commander presentation / released)
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