As Navy leaders envision the future of the fleet, cyberspace is top of mind. It spans almost every aspect of Navy operations: command and control, weapons systems, intelligence, navigation, and operations. But as the role of cyber in the Navy mission evolves, senior leaders face a nagging challenge: how to keep offensive and defensive capabilities competitive with the rapid pace of innovation and ever-shifting threats and opportunities. As the rate of change has accelerated, officials are increasingly looking for ways to directly connect the Navy’s cyber forces with private sector research and insights.
Last September, the leadership at U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet (FCC/C10F), decided to try something completely new: stand up a detachment in Pittsburgh to work directly with Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute (CMU-SEI) and more rapidly surface new capabilities in cyberspace. It is the first time that a Navy Reserve unit is attached to a specific academic program, or any organization in the private sector.
“We are...establishing Reserve detachments with high performing academic research institutions,” Vice Adm. Gilday [then Commander FCC/C10F] told the Senate Armed Services Committee when the detachment was announced in March. “This was initiated to better connect with advances in the academic world in order to enhance our cyber mission force training and cyber tool development.”
The unit will be created from a directorate currently within the U.S. Tenth Fleet reserve unit tasked with identifying best practices and needed skill sets for the Navy’s cyber efforts. Capt. James H. Lee, who leads the directorate, has been tasked with conducting the manpower assessment and completing the administrative work to stand up the unit.
Eight Reserve officers recruited from the U.S. 10th Fleet and other commands are already actively drilling with the detachment, including cryptologic warfare, informational professionals, and engineering duty officers. Members are drilling and conducting annual training on the CMU campus and working directly with CMU staff.
At his testimony in March, Gilday said the mission of the new detachment would be “to ensure that we are investing in the right systems, technologies, and methodologies to provide a resilient information environment that can be operated and maintained by our personnel.”
The Software Engineering Institute is a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) that provides new insights, access to new technologies, and trusted advice on technological capabilities. It is one of only two such institutes that receives funding directly from Congress and is focused primarily on supporting efforts at the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security with more than 60 projects active at any given time.
It’s no mistake that CMU’s Software Engineering Institute was U.S. 10th Fleet’s first choice for this new endeavor. Founded in 1984, SEI’s express mission is to “support the defense of the United States”, according to its website. The Institute’s Computer Emergency Response Team coordination center (CERT-CC), is sometimes called the “birthplace of cybersecurity” because it pioneered research into proactive security measures when the term “cybersecurity” did not yet exist. Since 2002, the institute has also led the National Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT) for the Department of Homeland Security.
CMU-SEI personnel work mostly in Pittsburgh but have staff in Arlington, Virginia and with strategic partners such as U.S. Cyber Command.
The detachment is the first of its kind for the Navy Reserves and one of Lee’s objectives is to enable the Navy to take greater advantage of Reserve Sailors’ civilian experience, professional networks and expertise. The inaugural members of the Reserve unit were hand-selected as civilian subject matter experts in areas of critical need, especially systems engineering.
The creation of the unit comes as part of a broader effort by the Commander of Navy Reserve Forces, Vice Adm. Luke M. McCollum, to better leverage the special skill sets and depth of experience that Reservists bring to the force. His effort, entitled “Ready to Win,” calls on the Navy to “leverage Reserve Sailors' civilian skills and relationships within their prospective industry to further enhance our contributions to the Fleet.”
The Navy and myriad other government agencies have collaborated with academic institutions for a long time, especially FFRDCs. But using Reservists to bridge technological demand signals in the military with innovation in the private sector in this way is a new model for the Reserve and active components.
This change comes as the U.S. 10th Fleet and the combatant command it supports, U.S. Cyber Command, are evolving rapidly, as are threats and opportunities in the cyber domain. Recognizing the ever-increasing strategic importance of cyber, President Trump designated U.S. Cyber Command as a full combatant command last August, at which point officials began building out the capabilities for it to operate as an independent combatant command.
The mission of the 150-member U.S. 10th Fleet reserve unit is to support U.S. FCC/C10F with exercising operational control of assigned Naval forces and coordinating with other naval, coalition, and Joint Task Forces to execute full spectrum cyber, electronic warfare, information operations and signal intelligence capabilities and missions across the cyber, electromagnetic and space domains. The unit drills at Fort George G. Meade in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Since its establishment, FCC/C10F has grown into an operational force composed of more than 16,000 Active and Reserve Sailors and civilians organized into 26 active commands, 40 Cyber Mission Force units, and 26 reserve commands around the globe. C10F, the operational arm of FCC, executes its mission through a task force structure similar to other warfare commanders. In this role, C10F provides support of Navy and joint missions in cyberspace operations, space operations and signals intelligence and space.
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