The Army’s move to rapidly stand new cyber and electronic warfare units has resulted in undermanning and a lack of risk assessments for the new teams, according to a Government Accountability Office report

The GAO has recommended the Army Secretary review all staffing, equipping and training concerns for the service’s new cyber warfare-geared teams as it looks to build out a new multi-domain operations warfighting concept.

Ceremony marking the launch of the first-ever Intelligence, Information, Cyber, Electronic Warfare and Space Detachment in the U.S. Army. (U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Caleb Minor)

“If the Army does not assess risks for units activated at an accelerated pace, those units may be unable to effectively conduct multi-domain operations,” GAO officials wrote. “As a result, senior Army leaders may not know what other challenges could arise, such as sustainment, as the units grow in capability. Army officials told GAO that as these units evolve, it is uncertain when more comprehensive risk assessments would take place.”

The report states that, as of March, the Army’s new Intelligence, Cyber, Electronic Warfare, and Space (ICEWS) unit had only 55 percent of positions filled and the 915th Cyber Warfare Support Battalion was only at 18 percent.

GAO also noted the Army did not conduct a risk assessment ahead of standing up the ICEWS unit, and only conducted an initial risk assessment before activating the cyber battalion.

Army officials agreed with the GAO’s recommendation to fully analyze risks ahead of standing up new cyber warfare units, while partially concurring with the two recommendations related to the ICEWS and 915th Cyber Warfare Support Battalion.

“The Army stated in its comments that it does not perform force integration functional area analyses for experimental or pilot organizations, and that because the first ICEWS was activated as a pilot, no such assessment was performed,” officials wrote, while adding that a risk assessment will be performed following the conclusion of the pilot period.

For the cyber warfare support battalion, the Army said it doesn’t perform force integration functional area analyses for such units, but instead has developed a concept plan to analyze potential risks. 

The Army released its new multi-domain operations concept last December, which focuses on driving strategic formations to better align with growing threats from Russia and China while urging a collective effort across the services to prepare for competition at levels “below armed conflict” (Defense Daily, Dec. 6 2018).