Army Cyber Command to Defend Elusive Battleground

Right out of the gate, the newly formed Army Cyber Command is set on keeping ahead of and adequately responding to the rapidly changing global Web battlefield, the organization’s commander said.

On Oct. 1, the Army Forces Cyber Command (ARCYBER) became fully operational, providing the Defense Department a means of protecting crucial government information networks and combating cyber threats worldwide. With a command strength of 21,000 soldiers and civilians around the globe, ARCYBER is the Army’s component of U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBER), which launched May 21 with the mission of fusing the Department of Defense’s full spectrum of cyberspace operations, according to the United States Strategic Command.

Headquartered in Fort Meade, Md., ARCYBER is commanded by Army Major General Rhett Hernandez. On Sept. 23 in front of the House Armed Services Committee, Hernandez detailed the organization’s objectives and the strategies it will employ to achieve them.

“Our mission is to plan, coordinate, integrate, synchronize, direct, and conduct network operations in defense of all Army networks and mission objectives,” Hernandez told the House. “We stand ready, when directed, to conduct those cyberspace operations necessary to ensure U.S. and allied freedom of action in cyberspace.”

To achieve this unified line of defense, Hernandez spoke about synchronizing what is currently a “loose federation” of networks into one solid entity, a “centralized control” called “Army Enterprise Network.”

Hernandez made clear that ARCYBER’s field of battle is drastically different than the terrain the military traditionally treads. The new battleground is a “relatively unrestrained environment,” he called it. Defending it is a challenge that will require more than simply manpower.

“The Army excels at achieving traditional military effects to support commanders’ objectives,” he said. “In the global cyber domain, however, with operations occurring at net speed across national boundaries and often involving multiple state and non-state actors, tactical actions can result in unforeseen and grave strategic consequences.”

Hernandez then brought up a less tangible but equally important idea – the shift in perception that must take place in order for ARCYBER to achieve its goals.

“To operate effectively,” he said, “we must change our culture. Every individual must understand cyberspace is a contested environment that must be protected.”

In order to address cyber security issues as they arise, Hernandez told the House that ARCYBER will pursue “innovative Army acquisition processes,” allowing the command to obtain cyber technologies in an expedited time frame in order to keep up with changing and emerging technologies.

“Once we can see and understand our network environment well enough to proactively operate and defend against threats at ‘net speed,’ we can start leveraging cyberspace as a domain in which the joint force commander can maneuver.”

“We will win the contest in cyberspace as we win on traditional kinetic battlefields, with the best trained and most professional personnel.”