For the military, cyber world, real world are the same thing

DOD officials describe how the network is now a weapon in the cyber domain akin to bullets in the physical domain.

Operations in the cyber domain may once have been seen as distinct from those in the “real world,” but the two are fast becoming inseparable, converging in the Department of Defense Information Network.

“I think DODIN operations, from the enterprise level all the way down to the rifleman radio, is the most complex, most important operation that DOD conducts,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Fogarty, commander of the Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, Ga., said at a recent conference. “We are almost completely dependent upon DODIN operations.”  

Several of the most critical components for success in cyber – and for that matter, much of the physical world as well – such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, precision fires, joint logistics and tele-medicine depend on DODIN operations.

“We are at a point now where the network is not just an enabling or supporting capability, but is a warfighting capability and a warfighting platform,” Fogarty said. “As we start to move into the offensive realm, with cyber capabilities, it becomes even more important to really recognize that fact.”

As a result, the cyber domain is starting to fall under the purview not of specialized cyber warriors but of the commander. “From the defensive to the offensive, [the commander] is the one responsible for integrating all these capabilities, like he is for fires, combat aviation or logistics,” he continued.

And the shared mission works both ways. Maj. Gen. Charles Flynn, commander of the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, said the Army’s cyber warriors must also be knowledgeable in land operations, so they’re able to articulate to commanders the available capabilities. “They need to be able to describe to the commanders what they offer,” Flynn said. “I cannot express to you adequately [enough], if you don't send your best people out there to talk to division corps, and theater commanders, it will set back your efforts more than you can ever imagine.”

Flynn described how cyber liaison officers must understand the broader concepts of warfare and operations – not just technical. Cyber warriors should be able to speak to operational commanders in “doctrinal and simple terms,” Flynn said. “They have to be able to describe what they offer to the commander, or they will be put in what I call the ‘island of misfit toys.’”

The network should also be viewed as a weapons system with bandwidth as a class of supply and data as a munition. This notion was paralleled in a recent report released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, describing cyber as just another military payload system to augment operations and end goals.

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