Army’s new cyber center aims to build top-notch cyber forces, not ‘exquisite stovepipes’

Cyber operations are just about the only area of the DoD budget that hasn’t been subject to cuts. But the leader of the Army’s new Cyber Center of Excellence says that doesn’t mean the Army can grow its newest military discipline in isolation.

Speaking to an industry audience just outside Fort Gordon, Georgia, earlier this month, Maj. Gen. Stephen Fogarty, the commander of the Army’s newest center of excellence, described the balancing act his organization will need to perform.

It will need to make sure the Army’s new cyber corps and its established signal corps, intelligence corps and electronic warfare corps, each blend their capabilities into a coherent force for what the military has taken to calling “information dominance.” At the same time, it can’t muddy the high levels of training and distinctive capabilities each of those disciplines have right now.

“What we’re going to have to do is make sure that at the end of this, we don’t have three very exquisite and expensive stovepipes that really don’t support the commander’s requirements,” Fogarty told AFCEA’s TechNet conference in Augusta, Georgia. “We’re going to converge some things, we’re going to change some things both on the intel side and on the signal side. We’re going to formalize cyber, and we’re going to employ it on behalf of the nation. That’s our responsibility.”

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The Army created the new cyber center out of the former Signal Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon. Its mission is to serve as the single force modernization proponent for all cyber activities within the Army.

The Army’s Cyber Command is also in the process of moving to Georgia, and the center will host the Army’s primary school houses for signal — the community that actually builds and maintains the network — and for the up-and-coming cyber discipline.

On the intelligence side, the Army will continue to operate a separate intelligence center of excellence at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, and there are no immediate plans to combine the two centers. But Fogarty said the Army will need to find ways to integrate its intelligence resources more tightly into the cyber mission.

“The reality is [intelligence and cyber] are not connected in the way we need to be,” he said. “When I went to DISA recently and asked them how many intel guys they had, the answer was zero. And my deputy for intelligence is a first lieutenant. We’ve got to fix that. We have to make that investment. How can you conduct a major operation when you don’t have intel support? Because that’s what this is. The operations we conduct on the DoD Information Network are some of the most complex operations we conduct as an Army. That doesn’t make sense to me.”

Fogarty said in order to fuse more of the Army’s intelligence capabilities into future cyber operations, it will also need to do some thinking about the operation of its IT networks.

While virtually all of the military’s intelligence activities are handled on top-secret level networks like JWICS, the overwhelming majority of real-world military operations, including those in which the Army might employ cyber tools as part of the fight, occur at the lower, secret level: SIPRnet.

“We can’t have two exquisite stovepipes on our networks either, one called TS/SCI and one called SIPR,” Fogarty said. “And unclassified information from the public Internet is becoming more and more important as well. My ability to get access to social media at network speed and quickly shred through that information is going to be increasingly important. At the same time, I’ve got to be able to push information out very easily at the speed of the network. We worked that very hard with the Afghan Mission Network, and the way we moved information between security boundaries was to burn it onto CDs, took from one system and loaded it onto another. We’re going to have to do better than that.”

Although the new cyber center’s mission is partially focused on helping to formalize a cyber career field within the Army, Fogarty said his intent is to simultaneously strengthen the existing signal and intelligence corps.

In the near term, the number of soldiers the Army is able to train through a dedicated cyber pipeline will be very small in comparison to the other disciplines that have, up until now, been the de facto manning source for Army cyber missions. At Fort Gordon, the signal school will produce about 15,000 trained and ready soldiers next year. In contrast, the cyber school is only expected to turn out a few hundred.

So to meet current day needs, Fogarty said the Army will continue to borrow soldiers from the intelligence and signal communities to fill out its cyber force.

“It’s going to be some of the best and brightest from both of those communities, and it’s going to be small. That’s what we’re going to start with, because we can’t afford an operational pause. We’re under attack right now, so we can’t ponder this,” Fogarty said. “But at the end of this, what we can’t afford to have is three exquisite stovepipes of signal, cyber and intel. This community has to come together.”

Aside from developing soldiers who are trained for cyber missions, Fogarty said the Army also wants to make the new center its focal point for identifying needed resources, setting acquisition priorities and managing a universe of talent that, up until now, has not come under a coherent organizational construct.

“There are a lot of ponds of brilliance scattered across the Army right now and that tends to disperse your funding,” Fogarty said. “The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand’s doing, and if we’re not careful we’re going to make some really bad investments without adequate oversight. The other part of it is that if you’re in industry, who do you tap into? Right now we have a lot of touch points. This is one of the major tasks that [Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Heidi Shyu] and [Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno] are taking a hard look at right now. How do we create a coherent, common community of interest for cyber? Our requirements are all over the map right now. There’s a lot of dry holes right now that we’re just continuing to pump money into, and we’re going to start to bring some control to that.”

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