The Army is gearing up to embed cyber soldiers within the staffs of all operational commanders to provide them options to attacks with both bullets and bytes.

Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr., commanding general of the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, Ga., is overseeing the effort launched by Army Cyber, the only service-specific cyber component in the military established two years ago.

During the past decade and a half of war, the Army did not focus much attention on training up soldiers to fight in contested, congested electromagnetic spectrum that is expected in a future war against a near-peer nation, Morrison said Aug. 10 during a conference call with reporters.

Army Cyber Command emblem
Army Cyber Command emblem

“We did shift our focus away from what we did with our electronic warfare professionals,” he said. “As we look to the future, that fight will be against a near-peer competitor who can bring together kinetic and non-kinetic fires. We know we have to rebuild that capacity.”

“It is a critical operational gap that we have in our formations,” he added “We need cyber operational planners supporting our maneuver commanders. “It brings together signal, EW, cyber and information operations with the right intelligence underpinnings and then builds them into the existing targeting processes at the BCT, division and corps levels,” he said. “We now give, in an integrated manner, maneuver commanders the ability to provide kinetic and non-kinetic fires as needed to support their operations.”

In just two years of operation, Army Cyber, headed by Gen. Paul Nakasone, has made significant progress. The Army just published its first doctrine laying out how it will fight in cyberspace, to include electronic warfare. On Tuesday, the Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon graduated its first class of enlisted cyber soldiers who have now been integrated with operational units. There already are about 100 soldiers assigned to Fort Gordon doing cyber operations every day, he said.

“We are deeply engrained and integrated with the operational force, primarily Army Cyber,” he said. “We are also working with the broader Army … to work on what capabilities, from a cyber perspective, need to be embedded into our tactical formations.”

Next October, the Army’s existing electronic warfare soldiers will be folded into the cyber warfare force now being built up. Eventually one of each will be embedded with every brigade combat team and battalion headquarters staff. Morrison envisions those cyber operational planners as being an embedded capability not unlike a Special Operations Forces contingent that can be consulted on certain cyber-related problems or threats and then brought in to eliminate them.

The transition of EW soldiers to cyber operational planners become officials on Oct. 1, 2018, but training will commence in January, he said.

“We’ll start conducting mobile training teams where we go out and start that training as early as January so that by the time we get to 1 October we are fully ready to go,” he said.