Industry Input Needed For Navy, Marine Corps Push For Tactical Cyber Operations

The sea services’ continued push of cyber activities to the tactical edge will require industry partners to deliver more resilient capabilities for offensive and training operations, according to military officials.

Cyber leadership from the Navy, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard detailed plans to expand the roles of their cyber forces and information warfare platforms, which will require more integrated partnerships with the private sector to defend against new threats.

“We need to redefine the nature of our relationship with industry to be successful in this domain,” Rear Adm. Kevin Lunday, commander of Coast Guard Cyber Command, said during a panel on cyber operations at the Sea, Air, Space conference.

The panelists told the industry-focused audience that more detailed discussion on capability security is required before new tools can be deployed to the services’ expanding cyber teams.

“The desperate desire to take advantage of the technological advances that we’re seeing with the cloud, with artificial intelligence, cannot be an excuse for supplementing security. Either within the Department of Defense or inside the individual industries that are trying to get the competitive advantage for their company, but at the expense of security, that’s something that we have to be exceptionally mindful of in our new initiatives,” Vice Adm. Jan Tighe, deputy chief of Naval information warfare operations, said.

Tighe pointed to new partnerships that will need to be established to meet capability challenges as a greater focus is placed on cyber in the tactical edge.

Rear Adm. Christian Becker, commander of the Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Command, said more partnerships will open up increased opportunities for adversaries targeting the defense sector to steal intellectual property.

“We need to figure out together how to protect your networks. How to protect the information that we need to protect in order to build unlimited capabilities that our joint fighter forces need,” Becker said.

In particular, Becker hopes to see more industry input in the development of SPAWAR’s Information Warfare Platform. The system, first announced in 2017, will bring improved command and control systems for Navy warfighters to improve situational awareness and mission planning.

The Marine Corps is also joining the push for tactical cyber capabilities as it begins building out its defense cyber forces for its Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) in October and starts incorporation offensive cyber operations within its marine expeditionary unit (MEU), according to Maj. Gen. Loretta Reynolds, commander of Marine Forces Cyber Command.

Reynolds cited a need for training capabilities as it moves cyber personnel out to MEU units and development of cloud technologies for its MAGTF teams to easily access data while conducting kinetic operations.

“We are best when we are working together, employing everyone else’s capabilities, everyone else’s authorities against the bad guys. Eventually what you want to do is as a MEU is out and about, forward deployed, we just want cyber to be a part of that,” Reynolds said. “Part of our challenge, I think, is we don’t have a ton of capability yet to exercise this force.”

The panelists pushed for more engagement on new capabilities as cyber operations move beyond network protection and further into warfighting operations.

“More and more you are going to see DoD and industry coming together in this fight. There’s no way to do this without working together going forward,” Reynolds said. “This is what makes cyberspace so unique as a domain of warfighting. Everyone is in the right. We’re all in the fight together, so there is no area of operations for cyberspace that is cornered off for the military force.”

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