What’s in a name? For the Information Warfare Community, that’s a thought-provoking question.
Speaking at an AFCEA event in Norfolk, Feb. 9, Capt. Katherine Mayer, assistant chief of staff for strategic initiatives at the freshly minted Naval Information Forces (NAVIFOR), reinforced the ideas set out in Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson’s plan, A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, and shed some light on the positive changes as well as the challenges that NAVIFOR faces.
Mayer, who began her career in Anti-Submarine Warfare, transitioned to the Information Dominance Corps — now called the Information Warfare Community — midway through her career. She has been at NAVIFOR since November 2015.
Mayer started by talking about the name change from Navy Information Dominance Forces to Naval Information Forces. “We changed our name to better align with the new term of Information Warfare, versus the old term of Information Dominance,” Mayer explained. The name change aligns with Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare and Director of Naval Intelligence Vice Adm. Ted Branch’s replacement of the term Information Dominance Corps with Information Warfare Community.
NAVIFOR, which celebrated its first birthday last year on Oct. 1, was quick to implement this change. The organization’s commander, Rear Adm. Matthew J. Kohler, announced the new name in January, shortly after the release of the CNO’s Design Plan. The name change continues to work through the official process to formalize the decision.
Mayer described the NAVIFOR mission which “supports operational commanders ashore & afloat by providing combat-ready Information Warfare forces, which are forward deployable, fully trained, properly manned, capably equipped, always ready, well-maintained, and combat sustainable.”
The command is the Navy’s global Type Command (TYCOM) responsible for readiness of Navy Information Warfare (IW) capabilities but its position as a capability-based TYCOM presents some unique challenges, Mayer said. “Unlike other commands, there is no platform,” Mayer explained. “Our IW forces serve on the ground, in the air, in and under the sea, and in space; shore-based infrastructure is our warfighting platform,” she said.
Mayer spoke about NAVIFOR supporting readiness to more than just the Cyber community. “NAVIFOR is a lot more than cyber,” Mayer said. “Admiral Kohler frequently articulates this with a variety of audiences.”
With good reason, too. While NAVIFOR is responsible for cyber readiness ashore and afloat, it has administrative control (ADCON) of 64 operational shore commands that deliver intelligence, Meteorology and Oceanography (METOC), Electronic Warfare (EW), communications, and space capabilities across all mission areas.
According to Mayer, delivering readiness ashore and afloat is the “bread and butter” of NAVIFOR.
“NAVIFOR has been able to take all of the ashore IW commands and help them articulate requirements with the fleet commander, which allows them to fight for resources. We now have an aligned, consolidated, prioritized list of requirements which can translate to improved capability,” Mayer explained.
Unlike other TYCOMS, NAVIFOR doesn’t own Marine Corps units. “Most of the work done in this area is collaboration on training and equipment integration; there are also targeted programs which leverage Navy and Marine Corps network capabilities,” Mayer said.
Civilians make up a significant part of NAVIFOR’s workforce. “There is a critical reliance on civilians. At every shore command around the world, civilians are very much an integral and vital part in all areas of our warfighting capabilities,” Mayer said.
Positive Changes — and Challenges
Recent changes in the Information Warfare Community have allowed for a more streamlined approach to communication. For example, at NAVIFOR, post deployment briefs used to be given by an O5/O6 to an O5/O6. “Now, a strike group commander comes with his or her IW team and gives a post deployment brief directly to Admiral Kohler,” Mayer explained. “We take these issues and recommendations and work with platform TYCOMs to get the next strike group ready.”
According to Mayer, establishing the Information Warfighting Development Center is underway, with an initial operational capability (IOC) targeted in March 2017. It will develop and implement tactics, techniques and procedures across all warfare areas and provide advanced warfighting training to forces afloat and ashore. Mayer said Information Warfare Commander afloat will be a key recipient of the capabilities developed by the Center.
Mayer explained there has been a great deal of experimentation in the IW Commander area and NAVIFOR will continue that effort. ”We are teaming with Carrier Strike Group Ten and Navy Warfare Development Command in a Limited Objective Experiment focused on roles, responsibilities, assigned missions and organization of CSG IW capabilities,” she said.
The Integrated Fleet Readiness Report for Navy Nuclear Command and Control and Communications (NC3) systems, lauded as a key component of NAVIFOR's success in their first year of operations, facilitated the development and establishment of metrics that measure man, train and equip aspects of Navy NC3 and provided a means to drive increased operational readiness.
“The NC3 Integrated Fleet Readiness Report allows us to target resources to they are most needed. While huge strides have been made in this area, continued work remains a priority,” Mayer said.
As for C5I (command, control, communications, computers, combat systems, and intelligence) modernization — it’s not new business, Mayer said, but NAVIFOR is continuing to “push the envelope” by optimizing C5I installs and upgrades on afloat platforms during availability.
NAVIFOR also manages the Deploying Systems Integration Testing (DGSIT) in both west and east coasts. DGSIT identifies and in most cases fixes significant interoperability issues introduced by the C5I/IW modernization process and provides feedback to the design and build process to reduce those issues in future fielding. DGSIT also has the added benefit of providing highly valuable hands-on training to Sailors and Marines preparing for deployment.
“In the past 18 months, DGSIT teams have conducted nearly 10,000 hours of technical and operational mentoring and training for nearly 2500 Sailors and Marines and resolved nearly 90 percent of more than 900 interoperability issues,” Mayer explained.
“The fleet wants more. Our challenge moving forward is adapting DGSIT to the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (O-FRP), meeting operational schedule changes and answering fleet demand signals to test out-of-cycle and independent deployers,” Mayer said.
NAVIFOR plays an important role in the Navy’s Cyber Security Inspection and Certification Program (CSICP). “Our role in the process is to provide teams that conduct cybersecurity Training and Assist Visits (TAVs) at Navy Shore and Afloat Commands which helps the fleet assess their cybersecurity readiness and prepare for inspections. Getting the fleet to sustain and self-assess in a robust manner is tough. It will continue to be a challenge as we move forward, but we have changed the TAV program to include training on cybersecurity compliance and built a process that commands can adopt and use for their self-assessment,” Mayer explained.
Also on the horizon is the plan to put Information Professional officers aboard more ships in the Navy. This development will be implemented over the course of the next several years. “Lots more work to be done with this initiative, but the future is encouraging,” Mayer said.
NAVIFOR is currently expanding its West Coast footprint; there is now a NAVIFOR West presence in San Diego, California. The intent of this presence is to provide IW Type Command support to the Pacific Fleet and its subordinate forces as an extension of our team in Suffolk. “Specifically, we expect more robust capacity in both DGSIT and TAV teams in the PACFLT Area of Responsibility,” Mayer explained.
In summary, Mayer was confident that NAVIFOR has made great progress during its first year on key initiatives aimed at maintaining a well manned, trained and equipped fleet that is ready to operate and fight decisively in the Information Warfare Domain.