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The Making of a Packard

Sunday, April 28th, 2019

Rapid acquisition of electronic warfare capabilities served an urgent need, and in the process set an award-winning example of phased prototyping, experimentation and fielding with creative resourcing.

In March 2014, before the rest of the world could react, Russia invaded Crimea, then annexed the region, a peninsula at the southern end of Ukraine. Russia’s subsequent actions in Ukraine revealed electronic warfare (EW) capabilities that not only overwhelmed Ukraine but could rival those of the United States. The U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) commanding general at the time, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, determined that electronic warfare was a critical strategic gap and pushed an operational needs statement to the Pentagon for quick action.

In response, the Army moved electronic warfare to the top of its list for rapid acquisition and endorsed a new approach—phased prototyping, experimentation and fielding—that would incorporate Soldier feedback throughout, infuse new technology as it became available and quickly deliver incremental upgrades to reduce operational risk while informing program-of-record (POR) capabilities currently under development but not yet ready for fielding. This strategy required a creative resourcing approach that combined existing funds, reprogramming actions and a new rapid prototyping program, and ultimately entailed more than 100 separate contract actions.

To formulate and execute the plan, the secretary and chief of staff of the Army tapped the then-newly formed Rapid Capabilities Office (now the Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office, or RCCTO) and the Project Manager for Electronic Warfare and Cyber (PM EW&C), part of the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEW&S), to lead the execution of the project, working directly with operational units such as the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in Europe. Less than a year after the project’s approval, the Army fielded new electronic warfare prototypes to select units in Europe, giving Soldiers the ability to implement electronic protection for their own formations, detect and understand enemy activity in the electromagnetic spectrum, and disrupt adversaries through electronic attack effects.

For their efforts in addressing this urgent operational need, the RCCTO and PM EW&C received the 2018 David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award. The Packard is DOD’s most prestigious acquisition team award. It is given annually to a few select recipients across the armed services and defense agencies for significant contributions demonstrating exemplary innovation and best acquisition practices.

The award-winning effort required teamwork, innovation, a user-centric attitude and a willingness to accept that the prototypes being fielded were just that. They were not completely perfect solutions, but instead incremental advances, with the capability improving at each step as the effort progressed.

Below you’ll read about several of the key players who made the Army’s electronic warfare project a Packard Award-winning reality. However, they are only several of many. Scores of people within the organizations contributed to the success of the project, as did many other individuals and organizations across and outside DOD who were brought in to find new ways to successfully expedite the traditional acquisition process. From EW officers to Army headquarters staff, from cybersecurity experts within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)) to the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, from the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force to industry partners and many others, the achievements leading to the Packard were a team effort that reflects the best of what the Army can do when the stakes are high. Here is a look behind the curtain.


“The big thing for us was speed. Where we had the opportunity to take risks, we did. It started with our board of directors [BOD], which at the time comprised the secretary of the Army, chief of staff of the Army and Army acquisition executive. We briefed the BOD, but there was no requirement to brief anyone else, due to the RCO’s unique charter. So the approval cycle was significantly shorter. The power of the BOD was it allowed us to bring in a broad end-to-end solution for the type of capability we needed to provide. And then, working with the unit, we developed what the specific requirements would be for mounted, dismounted, and planning and management systems. We developed an incremental strategy that increased the capability performance over time. We got prototypes into the hands of the users, who got to train on the equipment and give us continuous feedback on the performance and how to improve it. With this strategy, we fielded the first increment in one year, which was very impressive.”

The power of teamwork: “The user was actually in the lead of this project the entire time. From the delivery of the concept of operations to the performance of the system they wanted, the Soldiers and the EWOs [electronic warfare officers] in those brigades really helped shape how the system was going to operate. They were committed to the incremental strategy, where we put elementary pieces of equipment into their hands first, knowing that the capability was going to get better over time. PM EW&C was the other critical element to this project. The Rapid Capabilities Office had unique authorities but limited people to put on this project, so we partnered with PM EW&C to develop the solutions, prioritize the increments, develop the sustainment process, then together work on a funding strategy for every increment. It was a great partnership.”

Advice for rapid prototyping: “It starts with the user. The rapid approach is really a team sport, and the users are the critical piece on that team.”


“Commanders are severely limited in what they can bring to the electromagnetic spectrum fight. These limitations and lack of options are driving the operational need for EW capabilities.” The operational needs statement (ONS) from U.S. Army Europe “became part of the larger materiel development strategy by design. It provided a mechanism from which to rapidly equip forward presence and rotational forces with initial capabilities, then iterate those based on direct user feedback.

“The ONS provided a superb venue for risk reduction for projected programs, some of which were years away from starting. Not only did the Army benefit from a materiel standpoint, but the effort also drove doctrine, training, organizational design, and tactics, techniques and procedures.” The entire spectrum of doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, facilities and policy benefited, Hagenston said. Likewise, the ONS greatly benefited from programs of record that were underway. These included the Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool; Prophet Enhanced; Duke; and Versatile Radio Observation and Direction Modular Adaptive Transmitter, developed by the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate of what is now the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s C5ISR (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Combat Systems, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) Center. “The team was able to leverage these programs, which helped our velocity by providing a critical foundation for the ONS.”

The key to success: “The real force behind the success of this effort was the teamwork, leadership support, stable resources and direct access to the customer. The approach itself was simple. First, we took what we had and adapted it to the operational problem. This served as Phase 1, or the minimum viable product. Once we deployed Phase 1, 12 months from receiving resources, we were able to take the direct user feedback and prototype something closer to what the units wanted. This served as Phase 2. Through all of the phases, the capabilities evolved based on direct user feedback. Our team carefully listened to the feedback and worked in those changes. In many cases it was done on the spot, while other changes were saved to the next logical insertion point.”

Advice for rapid prototyping: “First, get intimate with the operational problem. Second, get the minimum viable product out quickly and really listen to the direct user feedback. Finally, iterate as fast as possible based on the direct user feedback. Velocity is the real advantage.”


“Rapid prototyping will have a very positive effect on the long-term POR. It also shows us the current state of industry. Specifically, in the EW specialty, rapid prototyping coupled with quick reaction capabilities [QRCs] has effectively informed the community on possible innovative solutions that help the U.S. pace the threat. The QRCs we are currently fielding to the force have enabled the program office to determine if innovative solutions are viable for long-term PORs. In FY20, PM EW&C will use the lessons learned from the QRC and rapid prototypes to inform the development of the long-term Terrestrial Layer System.”

What are the next steps for the effort? “The ONS for Europe maintains the ongoing effort until the POR comes on board. We have already provided an initial capability and are on schedule to provide a Phase 2 capability in FY19. This new capability will provide a significant improvement over Phase 1 while informing both the development of the POR and the Army’s decision-making on fielding quantities and timelines.

Also, with “The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations, 2028” concept published, capabilities in the electromagnetic spectrum [EMS], cyber and space will become better integrated into operations. Niche systems will no longer operate in stovepipes, but will become integrated and synchronized with operations occurring in all the domains: land, air, sea, cyber and space. Systems such as the [Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool], which links and synchronizes the EMS to the tactical commander, will become increasingly important.”

Advice for rapid prototyping: “Implementing a rapid approach has to be a collaborative team process built on the adaptation of lessons learned and best practices. As PM EW&C moves into the second iteration of our rapid processes, hard timelines closely linked to the operational force’s needs will drive timely and responsive decision-making. Ultimately, the success of a rapid approach is highly dependent on buy-in from all the team members, including industry partners and external stakeholders.”


“This is the outcome of a Soldier-inclusive, Soldier-driven endeavor. Their feedback laid the blueprint that guided our multiphased approach, serving as our engine of innovation. We had continuous engagements with Soldiers who received the equipment, including from Stryker, armor and airborne infantry brigades. Although the initial phase repurposed existing equipment, the feedback identified additional enhancements needed, such as how information was presented to the operator, how it was reported to higher headquarters and how it should be installed in the vehicles for optimal use. This feedback also identified a need for additional vehicle platforms that would support light, expeditionary operations, as well as for sensors that Soldiers could easily carry and operate during dismounted operations. These capabilities, which we didn’t address initially, were prioritized for the follow-on delivery phases.”

The toughest challenge? “The ‘horizontal’ or system-of-systems integration and end-to-end engineering, because various sensors needed to function as a networked set. To make it all work, we needed to stitch together existing sensors that existed as both PORs and QRCs, in order to provide a common operating picture to our EW planning and management tool.”

Advice for rapid prototyping: “Keep priority on delivering the product on time. You are subject to the tyranny of time, and the solution delivered will not be perfect. It never will be. There are no more ‘drive-by fieldings,’ so forge a solid commitment with the user, who will shape development before delivery—and cultivate that relationship to fix, improve and maintain the equipment to ensure mission success. You are delivering more than just materiel; these capabilities will influence doctrine, change organizations and challenge policy to enable commanders and higher Army echelons to respond to rapidly evolving worldwide threats.”


“This rapid prototyping approach dictated an agile, adaptive business model. That meant the two business teams had to come together and determine how much the effort would cost, what type of funding was needed, what contract vehicles should be used and what resources were available.”

“Early on, as the acquisition strategy and technical requirements were being refined, we implemented a tailored work breakdown structure into all cost estimating efforts. This enabled the teams to accurately account for all costs associated with rapid prototyping and develop a cost estimate, which was later used as the basis for the spend plans. Throughout the whole process, strong collaboration and daily communication was the key. PM EW&C Business Management Division was heavily engaged in identifying what funds were needed and where they should be sent. The RCCTO Business Management Division was responsible for ensuring funds were provided on time and in the amount needed. The two teams worked as one toward accomplishing the same goal. The USAREUR ONS was executed almost 100 percent within the cost estimate, on time and without any unfunded requirements.”

What contracting mechanisms were used? “The business teams worked together to develop a funding strategy to ensure the effort was fully funded. Initially we reallocated existing funds for this effort. We also utilized mechanisms such as below-threshold and above-threshold reprogramming actions. We successfully applied for and received funding from the Office of the Secretary of Defense Rapid Prototyping Program. To meet a very tight timeline for delivery, we also worked closely with [the U.S.] Army Contracting Command, as well as the Navy and Air Force contracting commands, for select contracting actions.

“We coordinated execution of more than 100 contract actions, including contract modifications, task orders and delivery orders. In some instances, because of the urgency of the requirement and the government’s interest to start contract work early, we used un-definitized contract actions.”

Advice for rapid prototyping: “This is a great approach to quickly provide needed capabilities to our warfighters. Constant collaboration and communication with the project manager, contracting team, business team and all stakeholders involved in your program is a must. This allows you to identify and address any risks or issues early.”


“As the project lead and lead systems engineer on EW for the RCCTO, I worked in close partnership with the PM EW&C team and my counterpart there, Lt. Col. Bowen, to develop and deliver this capability. Having a strategic focus and directing this capability not to the entire Army, but to brigade-and-below operations within the European theater, proved a key to our success. Focusing on the units aligned to USAREUR and understanding their concept of operations helped to scope not only the capabilities required of the various systems, but also how they needed to be integrated into the formations and the tactical mission command network. That, paired with early and continuous engagement with the brigade combat teams aligned to USAREUR, helped scope the effort and shape the overall phased approach for addressing the operational requirements.”

The toughest challenge? “Making sure we met all the requirements possible, which included establishing a networked EW capability that could interoperate with Army mission command systems, while also meeting our delivery timeline. The team included a great set of dedicated professionals within the RCCTO and the PM, and across our partners throughout the Army, that made this unprecedented effort a success.”

Advice for rapid prototyping: “Perfection is the enemy of ‘good enough’ when building your acquisition strategy and scoping out the phases of the capability. Time will always be one of the critical measures of success, and the burdens associated with the endless pursuit of perfection will always be a hindrance to getting the required capabilities to the end user. Working directly with the users early in the process, and then continuing to receive their input and operational feedback throughout the process, proved key to making sure we developed and delivered what they needed to meet their mission.”


“This equipment provides additional sensors that units can leverage to help build a common operating picture and drive the targeting process. It provides commanders with additional options to more effectively shape their areas of responsibility, while also addressing theaterwide challenges from near-peer competitors and NATO adversaries. These assets can be seamlessly integrated within a Stryker formation, require no reliance on joint air platforms, and can provide immediate direction finding or geolocating capability of enemy emitters to maneuver commanders at the lowest levels. The Army can continue to build on this momentum by solidifying what the primary mission or role of ground-based electronic warfare is and how the Army feels it should be equipped to accomplish it.”

How did partnering with the acquisition team early work for your unit? “Exceedingly well. Our team was fortunate to be able to participate in multiple Network Integration Evaluations, simulation exercises, and testing events both pre- and post-fielding. This gave our regimental planning team and tactical operators several instances to provide direct, candid feedback to the engineers, acquisition team and decision-makers involved in the project. We were able to see our ideas and feedback incorporated almost immediately, and knew with high confidence what we were receiving as the end user. This also served to get Soldier buy-in at the lowest levels, and they became more vested in providing comprehensive and meaningful feedback. It also removed a lot of unnecessary guesswork and ensured all parties had a shared understanding and shared expectations of the scope of the fielding.”

Advice for rapid prototyping: “Partner early and consistently with the acquisition team before, during and after equipment fielding. Know those aspects of the equipment that are more important to you and your Soldiers, and be prepared to communicate those requirements clearly. It’s also important to build a plan on how to go about stressing new systems, capturing relevant information, and how you envision the systems or equipment will be employed.”

For more information on the Army RCCTO, go to For more information on PEO IEW&S and PM EW&C, go to

Story by Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, John Higgins and Claire Heininger – U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center

Photo by US Army SGT Amber I. Smith

NANCY JONES-BONBREST is a public communications specialist for RCCTO. She has written extensively about Army modernization and acquisition for several years, including multiple training and testing events. She holds a B.S. in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.

JOHN HIGGINS is a public affairs writer for PEO IEW&S. He is an Iraq War veteran and former public affairs Soldier. He holds a B.A. in film production from Towson University.

CLAIRE HEININGER is the public communications lead for RCCTO and has written extensively about Army acquisition topics. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from the University of Notre Dame and is a former politics and government reporter for The Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper. She is Level II certified in program management.

This article was originally published in the Spring issue of Army AL&T magazine.

ACC Announces 24th and 25th NAF Merger

Saturday, April 6th, 2019


Air Combat Command is merging 24th and 24th numbered Air Forces at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, this summer to better integrate cyber effects, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, electronic warfare operations and information operations.

The synergy between cyber, ISR, EW and IO will increase unity of effort across these capabilities, resulting in new and improved options for combatant commanders. The integration also better aligns these units with priorities outlined in the 2018 National Defense Strategy and delivers the first “Information Warfare” NAF for the Air Force.

“The merger of 24th and 25th is the next step in leveraging and integrating new ideas and technologies to both improve the quality and speed of decision-making and deliver improved effects for commanders,” said Gen. Mike Holmes, ACC commander. “This formalizes the existing collaborations between cyber and ISR while expanding our competitive space in EW and IO, ultimately improving readiness and increasing lethality across the range of military operations – all vital to the success of multi-domain warfighting in the 21st century.”

The new IW NAF bolsters the Air Force’s ability to present electromagnetic spectrum forces and capabilities to execute missions alongside joint and interagency partners.

While the final organizational structure has not yet been determined, ACC anticipates an activation ceremony at JB San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, in late summer of 2019.

Story by Air Combat Command Public Affairs. Graphic by Mr Robert Young.

The GUHOR Stick!

Saturday, February 16th, 2019

GUHOR Stick? What the heck is a GUHOR Stick and what does it have to do with SSD? Well, as some of you may know, I spent the first half of my career in the Army MI business, primarily as a SIGINTer. Since the Army in its infinite wisdom decided to dismantle and then stovepipe its IW capability over the past 25 years, I feel it’s important to revisit the history of the SIGINT business as it is recreated in the form of Cyber Electro Magnetic Activities, or CEMA.

The GUHOR Stick is one of the most important tool ever invented for the traffic analyst (TA). Solutions to the most intricate communications networks often began with this simple device.

No self-respecting TA was ever without one close at hand. Like the six-shooter of the old West, the analyst kept it at his or her side, always ready to draw- circles, boxes, and lines.

The GUHOR Stick, in its most recent and best known iteration, is merely a 6? by 1.5? clear plastic template. Its prime purpose is to facilitate the drawing of communications diagrams, although its secondary uses are endless. It comes equipped with a large circle at one end to draw control terminals, a smaller circle at the other end for outstations, and a small rectangle in the center for communications relays and collective (CQ) calls. The straight edges are used to connect these stations and show communications paths. With this tool, a #2 pencil (with extra erasers), some graph paper, and several pencils of various colored leads, the analyst of old was fully prepared to face any communications adversary.

GUHOR Stick! But where did this strange name come from? Putting my analytical skills to work, I set out to research the issue. To my surprise, there was a higher than expected number of individuals who had heard the name. Most were seasoned veterans from a mixture of professions, including linguists, reporters, managers, executives, and, naturally, traffic analysts. But there was more than a little discussion about what this device was and where its name originated.

The early returns were mixed, however. I was still searching for the definitive word. It was at this point when I began to get responses from members of a Communications Analysis Association (CAA) interest group.  A number of seasoned veterans recounted their GUHOR experiences and, in a number of colorful responses, gave me what I believe to be the true scoop.

GUHOR Sticks as traffic analysis tools have been around for decades. Some CAA respondents remembered seeing or using them in one form or another from at least the early 1960s. Even so, a couple of questions remain unanswered. Who invented it?  Why was it given this curious name? Someone out there knows. If you can solve the mystery, we (Station HYPO) are ready to hear a good story.

All this discussion about GUHOR Sticks may be moot. These devices are few and far between these days. The GUHOR Stick does not have a federal stock number. They were made in batches at NSA by special order; however, they are fast becoming collector items. With the advent software, many analysts are using computer graphics to diagram their targets. The traditional circles and lines on paper are becoming passé. Most GUHOR Sticks that are found are being employed for many a sundry task-not for crafting the intricate networks of old, but for drawing nondescript lines and symbols unrelated to the trade of traffic analysis.

Those on field duty in the Pacific used a similar device which they called a “pooka-maker.” Pooka is a Hawaiian word for “hole.”

Source: NSA CRYTPOLOG July, 1994 (MDR Case #54778)

Edited by Mario Vulcano

To read more history, visit Station HYPO.

New US Army Electronic Warfare Vehicle Tested At Ft Irwin

Friday, February 15th, 2019

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — The Army’s newest electronic warfare vehicle was tested at the Army’s toughest training ground, the National Training Center in Fort Irwin California in January.

Electronic Warfare Soldiers from 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Greywolf,” 1st Cavalry Division conducted electronic attack and electronic support operations during the month-long exercise using the Electronic Warfare Tactical Vehicle (EWTV).

“Our main purpose was to provide support by denying communications to the enemy, jamming comms,” said Sgt. First Class Cristian Holguin, the EWTV team leader. “In addition we were able to listen in on FM communications from the enemy and detect enemy electronic signatures to use for call for fire missions.”

The brigade received the Army’s first dedicated electronic warfare vehicle in September of 2018 in time to test it out during the Brigade’s external evaluation, Pegasus Forge III, at Fort Hood, Texas. The team then provided feedback to the team at the Rapid Equipping Force, which had developed the vehicle.

“It’s like version one of the system. And for being version one it is a very good system,” said Holguin. “The folks at REF listened to our feedback following Pegasus Forge and actually were making upgrades to the vehicle as we were on ground at NTC.”

According to Staff Sgt. Darron McCracken, a EWTV operator, the shortened timetable between Pegasus Forge and NTC presented a challenge to the team, but they were able to overcome them and help integrate the system fully at the brigade and battalion-levels.

“Initially the battalions were a little skeptical of the system. Not only was it an asset they had to provide forces to help protect, but it’s a pretty big vehicle as well,” he said. “But once they saw what it could do and they benefited from its effects, they recognized the benefits of the system.”

The near-peer enemy along with the terrain and elements that the Brigade faced at NTC made it an ideal environment to test the EWTV. Once the force-on-force fight was completed, the team conducted situational training that helped further test the capabilities of the vehicle.

“We worked on finding ways to better improve our jamming and detection capabilities,” said Staff Sgt. Francisco Becerra, a EWTV Operator. “For instance, we learned by raising the antenna two more inches we were able to getter better lines of bearing. These are things that you can’t necessarily test out in the middle of a fight.”

Measuring the performance of the vehicle at NTC was sometimes difficult to do since there was no immediate feedback through real time measures and sensors. According to Holguin it is something that NTC is working to improve, however they were able to validate and measure effects in other ways.

“There are two aspects of performance. Performance of the equipment and performance of the teams themselves,” Holguin said. “And I think we’ve accomplished more than we expected for integration and employment; having and using the EWTV validated our position as an effective asset on the battlefield.”

Greywolf was the first to test the vehicle in an austere environment against a near-peer foe, but they won’t be the last. The EWTVs belong to III Corps and are being moved to other units so that their teams can test them and add their inputs to improve the system.

“The intent is to take all of the lessons learned and build on it,” said McCracken. “Towards the end of the process we will have an SOP, something that is predictable and can be translated across the Army.”

When asked if, after testing it out at NTC, they felt it was an effective system, McCracken answered, “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

The new vehicle was developed to provide Army Electronic Warfare Teams with the ability to detect and attack in the electromagnetic spectrum from an operationally relevant range at the brigade combat team level. It was developed by the Rapid Equipping Force to give the Army’s Brigade Combat Team a dedicated electronic warfare vehicle.

By CPT Scott Kuhn

Cyber Soldiers Reflect Upon Their Mission, Professional Opportunities

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — Army cyber warriors often say one of the things they like about cyber as a career is that it offers the challenges and opportunities of engaging in cyberspace operations either at a desk or in a tactical environment.

Sgt. Alexander Lecea, Spc. Ashley Lethrud-Adams and Pfc. Kleeman Avery are Cyberspace Operations Specialists assigned to the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment (ECSD), 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber) who were recently at the National Training Center, supporting a training rotation for a battalion from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) of the 1st Cavalry Division.

All three say they chose an Army cyber career because of that mix — being able to move between working in an office and taking part in operations and exercises.

The detachment provides, “A little bit of both aspects of the cyber field,” Lecea said. “You get hands-on technical training — you can do this job in an office. But at the same time you can do it in the field. And there are real-world applications.”

While cyberspace operations can be done in an office, it’s not as effective as being on the ground with maneuver units, the sergeant said.

During training exercises such as this rotation in the southern California desert, the trio functioned alongside the cavalry battalion as an Expeditionary Cyber Team that provided cyber effects and intelligence for the rotational training brigade, Lecea said.

“We provide the maneuver commander with cyber effects and support the troops on the ground,” working in concert with the 3rd BCT’s Electronic Warfare officer and Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA) chief, Lecea explained, to achieve the brigade commander’s intent and guidance.

Lecea said he went became a cyber warrior because he, “wanted to do something that was challenging and rewarding and also have applications outside the Army. It’s one of the toughest [Military Occupational Specialties], but at the same time I feel that it’s the most rewarding. You have a lot of challenging situations and you have to use your brain. You have to have good teamwork, too.”

The sergeant said he isn’t sure if he will stay in uniform long-term, but added that the Army also offers training opportunities that will prepare him for the future, whether or not he reenlists.

“We’re talking about SEC+, NET+, a lot of industry standards certifications you’ll need outside in the civilian world to get hired. It’s all the stuff they look for,” he said.

“I was interested in the field and I didn’t just want to go to college, so I joined Army Cyber,” said Lethrud-Adams. “The Army is a great opportunity because you’re getting paid to learn all this stuff and you get experiences you wouldn’t get elsewhere in the world. You’re not going to get experiences like this in college.”

Lethrud-Adams said his favorite part of cyber operations is malware analysis, and his two teammates vehemently agreed.

Avery, the newest Soldier on the team, said he wants to become an ION (Interactive On-Net Operator) and eventually join the FBI.

Until then, he said, he enjoys the challenges of cyber operations and trying to figure things out.

Story and photos by Steven P. Stover, INSCOM.

Army Wins Packard Award for Rapid Delivery of Electronic Warfare Prototypes

Monday, December 24th, 2018

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — For their efforts in answering an Operational Needs Statement from U.S. Army Europe and delivering first-of-a-kind electronic warfare prototypes for brigade and below, the Army Rapid Capabilities Office and Project Manager Electronic Warfare & Cyber have earned the 2018 David Packard Award for Acquisition Excellence.

The award, announced Dec. 7 by Hon. Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, is the Department of Defense’s most prestigious acquisition team award and is given annually to a few select recipients across the armed services and defense agencies. It recognizes organizations with significant contributions demonstrating exemplary innovation and best acquisition practices.

“This award is a remarkable honor and we are proud of the unique partnership that was formed between the two organizations to close a strategic capability gap against a rapidly modernizing adversary,” said Dr. Bruce Jette, Army Acquisition Executive. “Their approach, working with operational units every step of the way, enabled the Army to move much faster than traditional acquisition methods and serves as a model for other Army rapid acquisition efforts.”

In addition to the Army Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) and Project Manager Electronic Warfare & Cyber (PM EW&C), other winners of the 2018 David Packard award were the Air Force’s Enhanced Polar System Team, the Special Operations Command’s Stand-Off Precision Guided Munitions Team, and the Missile Defense Agency’s Spacebased Kill Assessment Program Management Office.

Soldiers with CEWI Platoon, Delta Company, 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion, provide actionable signal intelligence to help the 173rd Airborne Brigade during Saber Junction 18 in Germany. Soldiers with the 173rd were among the first units to receive the new electronic warfare prototype systems provided by the Army Rapid Capabilities Office and Project Manager Electronic Warfare & Cyber in response to an Operational Needs Statement.

The Army award was based on the delivery of new equipment to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the 1st and 2nd Armored Brigades, 1st Infantry Division. The prototypes, fielded earlier this year, enable Soldiers to implement electronic protection for their own formations, detect and understand enemy activity in the electromagnetic spectrum, and disrupt adversaries through electronic attack effects.

This freedom of action is essential to ground maneuver operations, since the majority of equipment, vehicles and air support Soldiers rely on to complete their missions either emit, receive on, are connected into, or are otherwise networked back into the electromagnetic spectrum or cyber domain.

In Europe, where Russian aggression, tactics and capabilities have demonstrated the ability to use the electromagnetic spectrum to affect military operations, the impact of the prototype capabilities is significant.

“This award is a testament to the outstanding work of the men and women of both PM EW&C as well as our RCO partners,” said Maj. Gen. Kirk Vollmecke, program executive officer for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors. “We are extremely proud to have piloted this effort as it afforded the Army an opportunity to accelerate its EW capabilities and close the capability gaps with our near peers. The implementation of agile, adaptive acquisition processes are imperative as we balance the immediate needs of our men and women in the field today along with future enduring requirements.”

The team’s acquisition approach — which adapted existing systems and incorporated emerging technologies to provide new electronic warfare effects and meet the emerging threat — represented a fundamental and innovative shift in how the Army delivers a new capability. In teaming up, the organizations created a phased prototyping, experimentation and fielding approach that incorporated Soldier feedback throughout, infused new technology as it became available, and quickly delivered incremental upgrades to reduce operational risk while also informing the program of record capabilities currently under development.

It also enabled the Army to move faster than traditional acquisition methods have allowed in the past, delivering needed capabilities into the hands of Soldiers approximately a year after they were first envisioned.

“In delivering these electronic warfare systems to Europe in less than 12 months, it demonstrated how the Army can go fast, streamline processes and meet the needs of a combatant commander,” said Col. John Eggert, acting executive director of the Army RCO. “What enabled this success was the total team effort between the RCO and PM EW&C on iterative prototyping that was informed early and often by Soldier advice.”

The systems, which include mounted, dismounted and command and control systems, are prototypes that serve as an interim solution until the Army’s enduring EW programs of record can be fielded.

Winners will receive the award at a Department of Defense ceremony held at the Pentagon in February.

By U.S. Army Public Affairs

Cyber Force Looks To Grow With Boost To Electronic Warfare

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

WASHINGTON — With the cyber domain expected to see constant battles in future warfare, Army leaders say new efforts are underway to strengthen the Army’s cyber force so it can defend forward against adversaries.

Spc. Victorious Fuqua, left center, and Staff Sgt. Isaias Laureano, right, both cyber operations specialists from the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), from Fort Gordon, Ga., provide offensive cyber operations during training at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Jan. 18-24, 2018. The Army’s cyber force plans to incorporate more electronic warfare and information operations assets in its future mission. (Photo Credit: Steven P. Stover)

One aspect being bolstered is electronic warfare. The Army has now placed 29-series EW Soldiers into cyber’s 17-series career field as the service zeroes in on it.

“We have really focused on the next phase of development and that’s in our electronic warfare force,” said Brig. Gen. Jennifer Buckner, director of cyber in the Army’s G-3/5/7 office.

The goal is to combine EW assets along with cyber and information operations capabilities across all echelons of the Army.

The Multi-Domain Task Force, which has experimented with those capabilities in the Pacific, will continue to serve as a proving ground. This fiscal year, there are plans to stand up an EW platoon within I Corps to support the U.S. Army Pacific-led task force.

“That will be kind of the first test case for our electronic warfare organizations,” Buckner said Thursday during an interview at the International Cyber Conference on Cyber Conflict U.S., or CyCon U.S. “We’re going to experiment with the capabilities as much as we’re going to also try to validate force design that we’ve put on paper.”

Sgt. Camille Coffey, a cyber operations specialist from the Expeditionary Cyber Support Detachment, 782nd Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), from Fort Gordon, Ga., provides offensive cyber operations as part of the Cyber Electromagnetic Activities Support to Corps and Below program at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif., Jan. 18-24, 2018. The Army’s cyber force plans to incorporate more electronic warfare and information operations assets in its future mission. (Photo Credit: Steven P. Stover )

In the coming years, the plan is to place an EW platoon in every brigade combat team’s military intelligence company. New EW companies will also fall under expeditionary military intelligence brigades.

Cyber and electromagnetic activity cells, or CEMA, will even be built up to advise commanders at the brigade, division, corps and Army Service Component Command levels.

“We’ll have an operational force and we’ll also have the planning and staff element that would help employ them,” Buckner said.

An additional piece, she added, is the Cyber Warfare Support Battalion. The battalion will grow over the next five to six years and include about 600 personnel in expeditionary cyber teams.

The idea behind it is “that we can tailor force packages, if you will, to downward reinforce to tactical levels,” she said.

Personnel numbers in the other efforts are still being worked on and will depend on the Army’s end strength and growth, she added.

Army leaders also hope to help fill its cyber ranks with more cadets and civilian professionals.

Brig. Gen. Jennifer Buckner, second from right, director of cyber within the Army’s G3/5/7 office, participates in a panel discussion at the International Conference on Cyber Conflict U.S. in Washington, D.C., Nov. 15, 2018. CyCon U.S. ensures outreach to bridge gaps and to promote information exchange across Army, military, and academic, industry, and government cyber communities. (Photo Credit: Pfc. Aaron Mitchell)

Throughout the ROTC community, there are about 50 cadets who commission into cyber each year.

At the U.S. Military Academy, many cadets have also expressed interest to commission into cyber. As of right now, though, only 26 cadets at the academy can do so.

“We got a large amount of interest [but] don’t quite have the demand side right yet from the Army,” said Col. Andrew Hall, director of the Army Cyber Institute, which is located at West Point, New York.

Cadets who branch into military intelligence or signal will benefit the cyber force, too.

“That’s also a huge win for us because those are our primary partners in this fight,” Buckner said.

Last year, the Army Cyber Command began the Cyber Direct Commissioning Program in an effort to entice cyber experts in the civilian world to suit up in an Army uniform.

The program received around 250 applicants and at least two of them — former enlisted Soldiers — were commissioned as first lieutenants in May.

Those who qualify under the program have the opportunity to join the Army as first lieutenant, with the possibility of a higher rank. Up to $65,000 in student loan repayment over the course of an officer’s initial three-year term is also on the table to attract desired applicants.

The program is currently searching for its first applicant to be automatically promoted to colonel.

“Right now, we have a system where generally an 18-year-old is the target,” Hall said of Army recruiting. “But we’re saying what happens if someone wakes up at 37 and decides that they want to serve? What happens if that person has had an entire portfolio of work where they could step in … as a battalion commander?”

While atypical, he noted, direct commissions were common during World War II to fill in gaps.

“We want to have flexibility so that we don’t limit patriotic service to 18-year-olds,” he said. “We want to give the entire country an opportunity to serve.”

Cutting Through The Noise: Army, Industry Work Together To Speed Up Signal Detection

Friday, November 16th, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Army Rapid Capabilities Office, or RCO, does things differently. It has to. It’s mandated in its charter and embedded in its culture.

So when it came time for the small acquisition shop to find a way to speed up signal detection, it knew it wouldn’t seek answers using traditional methods.

Instead, the RCO studied commercial models for getting answers quickly and created a “challenge” that gave industry, academia, scientists and other agencies the opportunity to go head-to-head in a competition, with prize money awarded to the top three performers.

The challenge focused on using artificial intelligence and machine learning to speed up the rate at which electronic warfare officers, or EWOs, could sift through the congestion and noise that comes with signal detection. With an ever-increasing number of signals flooding in from satellites, radars, phones and other devices, the signal detection process is no longer efficient in understanding the vast amount of data presented to EWOs on the battlefield.

Soldiers with the Combat Electronic Warfare Intelligence Platoon, Delta Company, 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion provide signal intelligence to help the 173rd Airborne Brigade during Saber Junction 18, held in September 2018 in Germany. As more and more signals are captured by satellites, radars and other devices, the signal detection process is no longer efficient in understanding the vast amount of data presented to EWOs on the battlefield. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Josselyn Fuentes)

Within four months of setting up the Army Signal Classification Challenge, the RCO knew mathematically who had the best-performing algorithm.

The challenge also had an unexpected result. By offering an unorthodox method for garnering participation in what would have been a traditional request for information, or RFI, the RCO challenge resulted in the top three prize winners spanning the unconventional by including a federally-funded research and development center, an independent group of Australian scientists and a team from a big business.

“By structuring this as a challenge instead of an RFI, we were able to model what industry does and create something much more hands-on,” said Rob Monto, director of the RCO’s Emerging Technologies Office. “We invited anyone with a possible capability to participate and posted it on and This is very similar to the commercial model of posting on, where data sets are sent out to communities of data scientists who want to compete against one another to determine who has the best solution.”

The RCO’s online challenge offered synthetically generated data based on what could be seen in the electromagnetic spectrum, and challenged participants to prove they had the best artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithm for performing “blind” signal classification quickly and accurately. The challenge was strictly performance-based and open to anyone. Because it was all online and completed in four months, it came with very little cost or burden placed on those participating.

“The response was overwhelming,” Monto said. “We had more than 150 participants from across traditional and nontraditional industry partners, universities, labs and government. As an incentive, we offered $150,000 in prize money.”

Team Platypus from The Aerospace Corp. won first prize in the Army Signal Classification Challenge over the summer of 2018. The team includes (front row, from left) Eugene Grayver, Alexander Utter and Andres Vila; and (back row, from left) Donna Branchevsky, Esteban Valles, Darren Semmen, Sebastian Olsen and Kyle Logue. (Photo Credit: Photo courtesy Elisa Haber, The Aerospace Corp)

The RCO announced winners on Aug. 27, 2018. First place and $100,000 went to Team Platypus from The Aerospace Corp., a national nonprofit corporation that operates a federally-funded research and development center. Second place, with an award of $30,000, went to TeamAU, made up of a small team of independent Australian data scientists. And third place, with a prize of $20,000, went to THUNDERINGPANDA of Motorola Solutions.

“Having a specific problem that can be worked on by industry, academia and private citizens is a great way to establish and build a community of innovators for this technology area,” said Dr. Andres Vila, an engineering specialist at The Aerospace Corp. and a member of Team Platypus. “This challenge, which extended for approximately three months, was the right balance of having time to formulate a unique and robust solution but also not so long that the team lost urgency to find that award-winning approach.”

The challenge proved a better way to assess industry’s capabilities, instead of using a more traditional RFI and white paper approach, Vila said, calling it “spot on.”

“The challenge arrived at a great time as we were just kicking off this research and the Army had a well-formed problem set and, most importantly, data,” Vila said. “This competition gave us the chance to take our latest innovations and prototypes and apply them to this new customer-curated, hard problem. These types of customer-sponsored competitions provide very focused challenges that give us the confidence that we are using the best technology available to meet their mission needs.”


The idea for the challenge stemmed from the RCO’s partnership with the Project Manager for Electronic Warfare and Cyber, within the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems, which recently delivered new electronic warfare prototype systems in response to an operational needs statement from U.S. Army Europe. Soldiers are using the equipment to implement electronic protection for their own formations, to detect and understand enemy activity in the electromagnetic spectrum and to disrupt adversaries through electronic attack effects.

However, in enhancing the signal footprint for EWOs, the prototype systems also brought more data to an already complex electromagnetic spectrum. Through the challenge, the RCO wanted to determine if artificial intelligence and machine learning, or AI/ML, could assist them in digesting that data and sorting through what is and isn’t important.

“We knew industry was already making leaps and bounds in applying AI/ML for image recognition and video recognition, but found that there was very little work being done in this specific area of signal detection,” Monto said. “What we discovered in a very short period of time is that AI/ML could in fact be applied to a data set that could translate to being integrated into an electronic warfare system on the battlefield.”

The idea is to create this application as a layering effect, where artificial intelligence and machine learning does one subset of signal classification for the EWOs, then layers other applications that are more encompassing onto that to give the EWOs a wider range of what they can identify, said Monto.

While the EWOs would remain as the lead for identifying signals of interest and analyzing their impact, the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning could help them quickly and accurately detect patterns, identify signals of significance, filter out unwanted signal noise and paint a picture of the electromagnetic spectrum.


The RCO’s Army Signal Classification Challenge began April 30 and closed Aug. 13. After opening registration online, competitors were given access to the training data set, consisting of over 4.3 million instances across 24 different modulations, which included a noise class. (The noise class represents “white” noise to replicate the real-life environment that signals would be detected in, rather than a pristine lab environment.) The effort sought solutions that could perform “blind” signal classification quickly and accurately. Blind signal classification requires little to no prior knowledge about the signal being detected in that specific instance. Instead, the solution would automatically classify the modulation, or change of a radio frequency waveform, as a first step toward signal classification.

The challenge gave participants 90 days to develop their models and to work with the training data sets. That was followed by two test data sets of varying complexity that were the basis for judging submissions. The first data set was released 67 days after the challenge launch, with a solution submission window of 15 days. A second, more complex test data set was released 84 days after the challenge launch, with a shorter submission window of only seven days.

Participants’ scores were based on a combined weighted score for both test data sets. Competitors could see how well they were performing against their peers through a participant leader board that showed scores in real time.

For first-place winners Team Platypus — which participated in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Software Defined Radio Hackfest 2017 and whose name references platypuses’ ability to detect electrical fields with their bills — the challenge lined up perfectly with its core research in artificial intelligence and advanced signal processing.

“We really enjoyed the challenge process, which included the hard problem curation, providing training data and a specific scoring algorithm,” Vila said. “To do this with the highest level of confidence, we had to use a multipronged approach. We built statistics and metrics inspired by communication principles, and we also developed deep learning classifiers that work directly on the raw data. We ended up using several state-of-the-art AI techniques to achieve the winning submission.”

Their technology includes an algorithm trained to identify what kind of signal is present in the midst of a congested radio frequency environment, much like Soldiers would find in an urban core or battlefield where both friendly and enemy radio communications are being detected.


By structuring this effort as a challenge and not going through the traditional RFI process, the RCO proved it could take an industry model and move fast. For its efforts, it is substantially closer to identifying a potential solution that could be applied to battlefield electronic warfare capabilities in the very near future. It also showed the RCO could harness the promise of artificial intelligence and machine learning by applying it to a specific problem. The amount of interest and quality of performance, including from nontraditional organizations, was remarkable.

Now the RCO is quickly moving forward to the next step, with two possible options. First, the RCO could initiate a second, more intense challenge and open it up to only the top performers in the first challenge. Or, the RCO could begin to immediately move the algorithms into the hands of Soldiers through software enhancements to their existing electronic warfare equipment. This would enable the Soldiers to give immediate feedback and enable the Army to incrementally build capability.

Over the next several months, the RCO will begin to advance what was learned from the challenge, potentially prototyping the leading artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms into Army electronic warfare systems.

For more information on the Army RCO, go to

By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, Army Rapid Capabilities

NANCY JONES-BONBREST is a public communications specialist for the Army RCO and has written extensively about Army modernization and acquisition for several years, including multiple training and testing events. She holds a B.S. in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.

This article will be published in the January – March 2019 issue of Army AL&T.