The U.S. Navy’s warfighting application of Information Warfare (IW) at the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) level has seen substantive evolution in recent years. The goal has always been increased integration of our community’s operational capabilities at the tactical level of war to deliver greater combat power, but its importance has only increased with the continued dramatic rise of information as a key element of modern warfare. The extent to which information is generated, shared, and employed in combat by the U.S. Navy, as well as our potential adversaries, remains an exponential upward trend.
We have evolved to better deliver combat power as a CSG in the face of this enhanced information environment. A key component of this evolution has been the maturation of the CSG Information Warfare Commander (IWC) construct, and CSG-10’s most recent deployment highlights that evolution.
Carrier Strike Group TEN employed an emerging IWC organizational construct throughout the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower CSG Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) cycle centered on a 2016 deployment to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operation. I was detailed to CSG-10 as the IWC — solely as the IWC, not dual-hatted as the N6 — just prior to the start of Group Sail.
All CSG IW functions were aligned and subordinated to me as the IWC in order to facilitate better integration of all elements of information warfare — both within the CSG IW enterprise and with the other warfare commanders. This more fully integrated model paid significant dividends, both as we prepared for the high-end fight during the work-upcycle and while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve and other assigned missions in the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, and Arabian Gulf.
The planning and execution of Electromagnetic Maneuver Warfare (EMW) underscores the extent to which broader integration of IW capabilities facilitates improved warfighting as a CSG and as the Navy tactical component of joint fights. Development of EMW schemes of maneuver – in the information and electromagnetic (EM) domains as well as the physical domain – is predicated on a detailed understanding of a potential adversary’s command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (C4ISRT) architecture.
The IWC must holistically understand our organic sensors (active and passive), communications systems, the EM and physical environment in which they are operating, off-board sensors and C2 systems, and their data paths, all within the context of the adversary’s system of systems.
Likewise, they must understand the broader information warfare enterprise ashore and be able to bring the power of the entire IW community to bear in support of the CSG. This proposition clearly requires the seamless integration of intelligence, cryptology, cyberspace operations, meteorology, oceanography, electronic warfare, and communications afloat. A failure to fully integrate all aspects of information warfare before integrating IW across physical warfare domains sub-optimizes EMW execution and undermines the effectiveness of tactical situation (TACSIT) management as an essential element of Navy combat operations.
The full integration of IW is critical to successful CSG-level warfare across all phases and domains of war. Depending on the operational context, the IWC may develop and execute EMW plans as either a supported or supporting commander. When my CSG Commander’s primary objective was to remain in a specified TACSIT as a precursor to follow-on operations or to maneuver with malice of forethought while presenting a specific EM and physical signature to a potential adversary, I was the supported commander.
During IKE CSG’s 2016 deployment, we executed several of these operations and the success of our EMW plans depended on full, seamless cross-domain integration with the other warfare commanders. My team integrated tactics that we — as an IW community — have generated and tested. In the high-end fight, CSG EMW is simply one tactical component of a broader strategic-level joint counter-C4ISRT campaign. The CSG must be able to fully integrate with the Joint Force Commander across all information domains and a fully empowered IWC is the right warfare commander to lead that fight.
CSG cyberspace operations also serve to highlight a seam that is best worked through a more fully integrated IWC construct. We were the first CSG to deploy with a full instantiation of CTF 1020’s Computer Network Defense Toolkit (CDT) to better monitor CVN network traffic internals. Employment of that system and other defensive cyber tools must be based on a foundational understanding of potential adversary cyber activities and threat vectors.
Understanding adversary actions and intent is a classic intelligence problem, but understanding the cyber dimension of the threat is not something we train or prepare our deploying intelligence teams for. Moreover, maneuvering the CSG’s networks (e.g., modifying shipboard network access control lists) in response to assessed/observed threats requires the detailed knowledge of our network architectures and vulnerability assessments that the N6 and combat systems teams provide. Successful cyber warfare within a CSG, at the tactical edge of Navy networks, therefore requires full integration across the intelligence, cryptologic warfare, and C4 disciplines as driven by the IWC.
Our communications architectures writ large must also be fully integrated across the full IW spectrum to optimize operational employment across all warfare areas. CSG communications links are no longer single-purpose systems managed and employed by Information Professionals outside the broader context of CSG operations. Our ability to assure C2 is now a more central, critical element of CSG operations. Our networks and links are part of broader CSG maneuver considerations as we work to assure C2 in the face of complex/sophisticated adversary systems of sensors and in communications denied/degraded environments.
Our C2 structures are inexorably linked to cross-domain maneuver. Given the interdependency of all warfare areas on our assured C2 systems, we can no longer execute Fleet C4 architecture cut-overs solely behind the radio door nor execute C5I fast cruises without coordination across intel systems and all CSG platforms. That is a lesson I learned in spades as we worked through C2 challenges at the start of IKE CSG’s deployment. To that end, CSG IW system enterprise management is a key function of the IWC given the interconnectedness of our information warfare systems and he/she must be empowered to direct this across the CSG.
In my opinion the most powerful use-cases for continuing to increase and improve the level of integration amongst IW missions under the IWC are inclusion of the METOC and intelligence functions as elements of the broader whole.
The CSG METOC function has traditionally been viewed as a physical maneuver/ops enabler with room for collateral/secondary duties (e.g., fleet schedules). In reality, the environment affects every single aspect of CSG information warfare and is a critical planning element for all aspects of EMW. Information is central to METOC: distribution, computation, prediction, and assessment (an element we rarely calculate and review). Likewise, a rich and detailed understanding of the threat environment and the adversary from well left of the kill chain to weapons seeker capabilities is a prerequisite for modern, information age warfare.
The CSG intelligence function must be informed by and responsive to the entirety of our information demands across IW missions in addition to more traditional intelligence requirements from the other warfare commanders. Intelligence is more powerful when integrated with other IW capabilities. Those who believe our new IWC construct places a “filter” on the CSG intelligence officer fail to recognize the additive value of an experienced, screened, and senior IW professional in enhancing and supporting the N2’s delivery of assessments to a CSG commander.
A common question I hear concerning this emerging IWC construct is: “What problem are we trying to solve?” I believe the answer is simple: we are improving the application of information-related capabilities and execution of IW and EMW at the tactical level of war. My experience as a CSG IWC has brought this information-age demand and our way ahead into sharper focus.
As the singular IW “voice” at Warfare Commanders’ Boards and other executive venues, I was better able to integrate IW in a more powerful and effective manner, and I believe my peers felt better supported and more effectively positioned to provide focused support to me when I was the supported commander. The IWC construct as designed and advocated for by Commander, Navy Information Forces, and as executed by CSG-10, allowed us to provide better support to combatant commanders and provide more flexible options for Navy component commanders and other CSGs.
There is still much to do. My team was distributed across four watch centers, which allowed little opportunity for integration at the watch team level. Capt. Cliff Bean, the CSG-2 IWC, will more fully integrate his IW watches as part of Bold Alligator later this year. We must also deliberately improve the integration of space-based capabilities to better assure C2 and prepare ourselves for warfare within a Joint Force construct.
In short, the evolution and maturation of the CSG IWC construct is a strategic imperative. Our ability to deliver capabilities for naval warfighting and contribute to CSG maneuver warfare as an IW community at the tactical level of war is contingent on our ability to sense, assess, and maneuver in the information and physical domains. At its heart, this is a leadership issue; the IWC must lead a team of information warfare professionals in the application of their craft. The Navy demands our best and this new IWC construct delivers it.
Capt. Braswell is a career Information Warfare Officer. He most recently served as the Information Warfare Commander for Carrier Strike Group TEN and led the CSG Information Warfare Team through a seven-month 5th and 6th Fleet deployment and subsequent Sustainment Phase of the OFRP.
Reprinted with the permission of the Information Warfare Community Self Synchronization and Capt. Braswell. Original publication Aug. 22, 2017 on the IWC Self Synchronization Facebook page: https://facebook.com/IWCsync. Read Capt. Cliff Bean’s companion article, “Our Strategic Inflection Point.”