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Cyber Quest 23 Informs Cyber and Electronic Warfare Program Managers

Friday, September 1st, 2023

FORT GORDON, Ga. — Environment matters when it comes to experimentation and analysis of capabilities for the Army. To determine how a piece of technology will perform on the battlefield, the right environment is needed that replicates many of the battlefield variables.

In the electronic warfare and cyberspace — shortened as EW and cyber — communities, Cyber Quest is that environment. Developed with purpose, Cyber Quest is the perfect place for EW and cyber to experiment and analyze potential technologies that may make their way onto the battlefield one day. It’s where Soldiers, industry and government partners come together for a common purpose — inform capability development in various portfolios including EW and cyber, areas not only critical to the Army but critical to the Program Executive Office, Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors — known as PEO IEW&S.

This annual prototype assessment, now in its eighth year, explores industry innovations and captures Soldier feedback through a series of rigorous and objective experimentations to provide evidence-based results. Soldiers from the U.S., Australia and Canada took part in evaluating technologies this year.

“Cyber Quest is about making sure the interaction between the science and the practitioners is at the right level,” Maj. Gen. Paul Stanton, commanding general, U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence said during his opening remarks. “We take the state-of-the-art capabilities that industry and the scientific community have been working on and we refine them in accordance with what Soldiers tell us they need.”

Anyone within the EW and cyber communities will agree, things move incredibly fast and change constantly. To keep pace, events like Cyber Quest help inform the requirements documents and ultimately increase the rapid acquisition of EW and cyber capabilities.

Members from the EW and cyber requirements and acquisition communities, as well as Soldiers, attend Cyber Quest to see what industry has developed and how those capabilities performed in the experimentations during a culminating distinguished visitors day event.

Due to its focus, Cyber Quest has become the premier prototyping event for the Army, and feeds into larger Army technology assessments like Project Convergence.

From a product manager perspective, “Cyber Quest allows us to see a broader perspective of what’s going on in the [EW] community,” Liz Bledsoe, Product Manager, Electronic Warfare Integration, explained. “There may be technology here we can use in some capacity in the future.”

Beyond the technology results, networking with the community adds even more value to Cyber Quest. “Stakeholder relationships is important at our level,” Bledsoe said. “I met with our Canadian and Australian allies in attendance to catch up and talk shop. We operate alongside both countries often so it’s important we keep those relations up.”

Bledsoe’s work focuses on the Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool, or EWPMT, a commander’s tool to remotely control and manage electromagnetic spectrum assets to execute offensive and defensive EW operations. At Cyber Quest, EWPMT was set up to receive data from the participating vendor products and was able to receive data as a result. “Experimentations are great. Any of the data we get from Cyber Quest helps with the future of EWPMT,” Bledsoe explained.

The experimentation aspect of Cyber Quest is fairly unique and can provide the acquisition community a look ahead. “If there’s something really important, we see in the final results, could be positive or negative, it gives us insight on changes we need to make and where can we build the capability up to,” Bledsoe explained. “We may identify aspects the Combat Capabilities Development Command, Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center or other science and technology organization could work through first and then we can pick up and implement it in two to three years.”

The experimentation component of Cyber Quest 23 also drives home an increasingly important aspect of software development — Soldier feedback matters.

“If you want good Soldier feedback, you have to show you value it in the first place by quickly integrating feedback into the next iteration of a product,” Bledsoe said.

She hopes to be able to take data from the experimentations and Soldier feedback back to her team to help them further develop and improve EWPMT.

“This community is at the nexus of the science and the practitioners, new protocols, new kit, new antennas, new algorithms — aligning with our Signal, EW and Cyber Soldiers – this is our time at Cyber Quest to make sure things work,” Stanton explained. “What we’ve done here at Cyber Quest informs future requirements and capability drops that we hand off to our Acquisition community to buy and build the equipment that’s going to work the way we need it to. It does us no good to give Soldiers a piece of kit that is not going to function under the extreme circumstances of the operating environment.”

By Shawn Nesaw

Leaders Give Update on ‘Modern Triad’

Tuesday, August 15th, 2023

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Space, cyber and special operations leaders said America and its allies continue to integrate capabilities in a triad intended to influence multi-domain and full-spectrum operations and provide the joint force with an enhanced capability to see, sense, stimulate, strike and assess across the spectrum.

The triad panel members: Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, commanding general of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command; Lt. Gen. Maria B. Barrett, commanding general of U.S. Army Cyber Command; Lt. Gen. Jon Braga, commanding general of U.S. Army Special Operations Command; and United Kingdom Royal Air Force Air Commodore Adam Bone, U.K. Space Command director of operations, plans and training; participated on a panel discussing the triad during the 26th annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville on Aug. 8.

“The combined use of space, cyber and special operations force capabilities provides other options to commanders that are less likely to cause escalation,” Karbler said. “When you look at what the triad demonstrates in its ability to integrate and synchronize space, cyber and SOF capabilities at the most effective, tactical echelon and then expand options for creative venues to exploit, that is what commanders and joint forces are looking for.”

Karbler said USASMDC is the Army’s force modernization proponent and operational integrator for global space, missile defense and high-altitude capabilities, and that space capabilities enable land operations in multiple ways in the same way that land capabilities enable space operations.

“We have explored countless opportunities and taken advantage of different exercises that all of us have gone arm-in-arm to demonstrate capabilities the triad brings,” Karbler said. “When you look at the complimentary, reinforcing nature of each capability and how they present multiple dilemmas for the enemy, the overall effect is greater than the sum of each individual effect.”

Bone said the UK is realistic about its current status as a military space power, creating the U.K.’s Space Command to help advance U.K. and allied equities in space.

“We are justifiably more confident of our established U.K. strengths in special forces, cyber and intelligence,” Bone said. “The obvious next steps are to leverage those strengths in the space domain. With that in mind, the innovation we see the U.S. Army leading is of significant interest.”

Bone said the U.K. Space Command recognizes the triad’s acknowledgment that the space domain provides a vital role in national defense. He added the U.K.’s capabilities across special forces and cyber domains are highly regarded by partners globally, and it is only rational to demonstrate ambition to leverage and support such potent resources in the space domain.

“By synchronizing effects, the layered output adds up to be greater than the sum of their parts — that’s what makes the triad concept so valuable,” Bone said. “And, it links neatly with the U.K. concept of multi domain integration. If space is recognized by the U.K. to be the most essential integrator, why wouldn’t we also want to make the most of those connections in mutual multi-domain support?”

Bone said in regard to U.K. Space Command’s connection with the U.S. Army, and in particular USASMDC, that there are synergies between the organizations, highlighting the scale, mindset and approach. He added that experimentation, innovation and operational integration are all second nature because of this.

“U.K. defense broadly understands the value of ‘space as an enabler,’ but we haven’t quite indoctrinated the joint force in the opportunity of ‘space as an effector’ in its own right,” Bone said. “The triad concept will act as a proving ground for this employment within a slightly smaller community of interest that has both the operational necessity and experience to drive this forward, particularly given the synergies between the space and cyber domains. In turn, we hope that the subsequent lessons and vignettes will help further the U.K. multi-domain integration concept — maximizing the value of the space domain within U.K. operations.”

These space, cyber and special operations experts said the synergy of these organizations help the joint force, Army and U.S. allies and partners to face the future. With space, special operations and cyber all possessing unique but independent capabilities, each component can rapidly gain intelligence and attack critical vulnerabilities.

Barrett said they are focused on synchronizing and converging each organization’s capabilities to create an effect and combining their unique capabilities and efforts to facilitate the use of these capabilities with either combatant commanders or their service commanders in the theaters.

She said the triad is a partnership that will help the Army and joint force commanders achieve information advantage. Barrett added the triad is more than an idea saying they are already coming up with solutions and tools together as a team.

“The triad brings an essential aspect of battlefield geometry that alone none of us can,” Barrett said. “We now have an understanding of what is happening in the competition’s space we previously did not have.

“We will never run out of challenges,” she added. “We have to provide the proof of concept that this works and that it’s worth the investment. Adaptation and innovation are imperative. We can see what the threat is and know we are going to have to do to adapt.”

Braga said during the last year, his command has started to change their organizational structures for tomorrow’s needs. He added they are integrating triad concepts into doctrine and exploring professional educational opportunities and the development of a new military occupational specialty to codify the focus and investment required to achieve success.

“Moving forward I would expect more adaption to technology,” Braga said. “Adaptation of technology and how you leverage them affects elements from SOF, space and cyber communities.

“Innovation is a mindset, and if not us, then who?” Braga asked. “Who is going to adapt the changing technology of all three legs of the triad? Who is going to embrace that technological change to their advantage the quickest and the fastest?”

Braga asked if space, cyber and SOF and its coalition partners were prepared to win if the country faces a high-end conflict.

“That is what’s before us,” Braga said. “Although the weight of that burden is not 100 percent on the legs of the triad, we certainly have a major role to play and an outsized ability to influence and prevent and contribute toward deterrence with this modern day triad.”

By Jason Cutshaw, USASMDC

Reserve Cyber Marines Support Tradewinds 23 after Winning Another USMC Cyber Games

Monday, August 14th, 2023


Marines from 6th Communication Battalion reclaimed the first-place title for the Marine Corps Cyber Games May 1-5, 2023, as the only Marine Reserve unit to compete.

Despite tying for first place with I Marine Expeditionary Force, 6th Comm Bn are still the reigning champions of the semi-annual competition as both units earned perfect scores in their respective events. 6th Comm Bn didn’t compete in 2022 due to operational tempo and were unable to send a team but they won first place in the 2020, 2021 and now the 2023 USMC Cyber Games.

“We’re lucky to have such a talented group of Marines,” said Lt. Col. Marc McNeill, commanding officer of Headquarters Company, 6th Comm Bn.

“Their performance in this competition, as well as their wins in the 2020 and 2021 USMC Cyber Games, really shows the capabilities that the reserve component can bring to the fight.” Lt. Col. Marc McNeill, commanding officer of Headquarters Company, 6th Comm Bn.

The Cyber Games provide Marine Corps units an opportunity to compete in tailored scenarios and challenges of varying difficulty to test their knowledge and skills of defensive cyber operations. Marines also learn new skills to better their cyber proficiency.

A total of five teams of six to 12 Marines each competed this year from different units, including Marine Special Operations Command, I MEF, III MEF, 8th Comm Bn and 6th Comm Bn. These teams engage in a simulated environment where they were given 24 hours over a two-day period to gather as many cyber flags as possible of differing levels.

The 6th COMM Bn team consisted of Marines from both Alpha Company, Bravo Company and one Marine from the Marine Innovation Unit. From Alpha Company, Warrant Officer Travis Nichols, a defense cyber weapons officer, Gunnery Sgt. Adam Radloff, a cyberspace operation chief, Staff Sgt. Michael Torres, a network administrator, Staff Sgt. Ezell Hardman Sgt. James Johnson, both cyberspace warfare operators. From Bravo Company, Staff Sgts. David Osborne, Tyler Short, Nicholas Szantos, Cpl. Joshua Mackaman and Lance Cpl. Nirajan Poudel, all defense cyberspace warfare operators. From MIU was Maj. Robert McCartney, a communications officer.

“Many of these Marines are cybersecurity professionals in the civilian careers and are as technically proficient as anyone in the Marine Corps,” said McNeill. “Most of these Marines didn’t start their careers as [cyberspace officers, or cyber defense operators]. So, if any Marines out there have skills in this area, regardless of your current [military occupation specialties], we’d love to add you to the team.”

As a Reserve unit, 6th COMM Bn is split geographically, while Alpha Company is in Concord, California, Bravo Company is on the other side of the country in Ayer, Massachusetts. This proves that 6th COMM Bn can operate in a distributed environment and still accomplish their mission.

6th COMM Bn’s win streak continues even though under half their team has not been formally trained through the Marine Corps’ defensive cyber school. This is a result from when the Reserve Component stood up the cyber companies, they pulled many Reserve Marines from other MOSs that had a cyber background.

Staff Sgt. David “Ryne” Osborne, formerly an artillery gun chief, was one such Marine. He thought his time in the Reserve force was coming to an end because of limited open billets for artillery career progression. He was then reached out to because of his cyber background in his civilian career and was given the opportunity to stay a Reserve Marine and lateral transfer to cyber.

When asked about next year’s games, Osborne replied, “I am extremely excited for next year’s competition. We, as Reserve Marines, have consistently proven that we are executing at par and often above our active-duty counterparts. Having another opportunity will give us another platform to show that many of the Reserve Marines can execute at an extremely high proficiency while most often, not being MOS 1721 school-trained certified.”

A few members of the winning team have also been involved in Tradewinds 23 a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise designed to strengthen partnerships and interoperability, promote human rights, as well as increase all participants training capacity and to mitigate, plan for and respond to crisis and security threats. This year, Tradewinds was hosted in Georgetown, Guyana.

Nichols, Osborne, and Mackaman from the winning team along with Gunnery Sgt. Danel “Nikki” Beier, a cyber intelligence chief, and Cpl. Mario Huelga, a cyber intelligence analyst, with 6th COMM Bn, provided multiple classes on defensive cyber operations to 26 service members from seven different partner nations. These classes ranged from basic network enumeration and analysis, cyber incident response, vulnerability analysis, threat hunting and cyber threat intelligence.

This was the first time since 1984 that Tradewinds has brought cyber capabilities to the exercise and is also one of the first exercises that 6th COMM Bn has supported an overseas exercise as the Marines annual training.

“It’s a very unique opportunity in training with partner nation forces, especially in cyber,” Nichols said. “With cyber being at the forefront of everyone’s priorities, it gives my Marines the ability to not only spread the knowledge of cyber security, but also cyber threat intelligence (CTI).

“This year was the first iteration of expanding cyber’s scope to include CTI in the course curriculum,“ continued Nichols. “As cyber threats become more prevalent into today’s battlespace, the Marine Corps partners not just with the US sister services, but also partner nations like Guyana to help combat emerging persistent cyber threats.”

By LCpl Sarah Pysher | U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve

First Annual Army Cyber Seminar to Help Recruit and Retain Talent

Wednesday, August 9th, 2023

WASHINGTON – A panel of Army senior leaders will select 12 Soldiers and civilians to learn the intricacies of cyber strategy and policymaking.

As part of the service’s broader effort to retain and recruit its top talent, the first annual Secretary of the Army’s Cyber Strategic Seminar will give participants the rare opportunity to receive exposure to top Army and government leaders.

The proposed activities in the nine-month session include meetings with officials from across the federal government, industry and academia, and practical exercises with Army senior leadership. The dozen finalists will also brief Army senior leaders at the conclusion of the program.

The seminar, jointly administered by Army Principal Cyber Advisor Michael Sulmeyer and Army Cyber Command commander, Lt. Gen. Maria Barrett, will also help identify and train the Army’s top talent in cyber security.

“What we’re looking for is to develop leaders who have a particular aptitude for cyber-related issues,” Sulmeyer said. “And hopefully, they will use this program to increase their awareness and creativity around how cyber operations fit into multi-domain operations, [and] how cyber operations can inform operations in other domains.”

As the Army competes for top talent in cyber security, the seminar will showcase career opportunities in the field.

The Soldiers and Army civilians will discuss topics that include weapons systems security, intelligence support to cyber functions, the defense industrial base and acquisition support to cyber operations. Participants will gain an understanding of partnerships with foreign allies to defend and secure critical data, as well as meet with leaders in cyber security across government, the private sector, and academia.

The dozen selectees will include Soldiers in the grades of sergeant to sergeant first class, warrant officer 1 through chief warrant officer 3, and first lieutenant to major, and civilians GS-9 through GS-13. Finalists must have a minimum secret clearance and be available to attend all sessions of the seminar.

The group will meet monthly for a different activity planned by Army Cyber Command. The application period began last month and ends Aug. 11. The participants will be announced at the Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in October, with the seminar set to begin shortly after.

The search will not be limited to individuals in cyber or tech-related positions. Soldiers and civilians in all military occupational specialties and career fields can apply.

“What we wanted to do is to identify the Army’s top talent across enlisted [Soldiers], warrant officers and civilians and provide a way to broaden their exposure to strategic policymaking, to be able to take them to different venues,” said Sulmeyer, who previously served as senior policy advisor for U.S. Cyber Command. “Our hope is that [the seminar] is a tool not just to develop their careers and make them into even stronger Army leaders, but also to retain them in the force.”

Cyber and data centricity have increasingly become important factors in multi-domain operations. Secretary Wormuth has prioritized recruiting Soldiers with expertise in the field.

“[Secretary Wormuth] has placed such a premium on strategic recruitment and retention,” Sulmeyer said. “[The seminar] was a way that she thought the Army could lead in identifying our top talent and giving them exposure to strategic cyber issues.”

Interested Soldiers and civilians can apply at Candidates must self-nominate to apply but will need a supervisor endorsement if they are selected for an interview. Finalists will be selected based on an interview and written application.

By Joe Lacdan, Army News Service

CYBERCOM’s “Under Advisement” to Increase Private Sector Partnerships, Industry Data-Sharing in 2023

Saturday, July 22nd, 2023

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. — In an increasingly contested and evolving cyber domain, the bridge between government and private industry has become crucial in defending against malicious cyber-attacks; for U.S. Cyber Command, this bridge is ‘Under Advisement.’

Under Advisement, or UNAD, is an unclassified program that allows partners across all sectors of industry to collaborate and share technical information on foreign threats, which has been pivotal in countering foreign cyber threats to the Nation.

This two-way information-sharing supports the Dept. of Defense’s mission outside of the United States, enabling a broader threat picture and bolstered network defenses for both the U.S. government and industry partners.

 “Under Advisement, and the relationships we have built with our industry partners, is game-changing,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William J. Hartman, commander of Cyber National Mission Force, the organization that launched UNAD.  “We are able to enrich industry data with our expertise and unique insights, and share that back with trusted private sector partners—who then can better defend their networks at home, while we pursue malicious cyber actors abroad.”

For example, CNMF has unique authorities to conduct defensive cyber operations abroad in partner nations’ networks at their invitation. If novel malware or indicators of compromise are found on those hunt operations, UNAD can rapidly share with private industry and interagency partners, enabling them to harden cyber defenses before those threats can reach U.S. networks.

UNAD is one part of the U.S. government’s engagement with industry, and closely partners with fellow government-industry partner programs such as NSA’s Cybersecurity Collaboration Center and Department of Homeland Security’s Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative.

“We’re defending against the same adversary as industry,” said Holly Baroody, executive director of U.S. Cyber Command and former deputy to the Cyber National Mission Force commander. “By working together and sharing indicators of compromise, we can get a clearer view of what the adversary is doing in cyber and disrupt their attacks.”

UNAD is comprised of highly skilled technical experts, both military and federal civilians, who are in daily contact with industry via secure chat applications and invite-only industry forum. In every interaction, UNAD communicates in full, transparent attribution as members of Cyber Command’s Cyber National Mission Force.

“Partnerships in cyberspace gives us an advantage that our adversaries don’t have,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jason Seales, chief of Under Advisement. “A threat to one of our networks is a threat to all, and it takes public stakeholders and private industry to build foundational cyber defenses in and through partnering.”

Developed by U.S. Marine Maj. (ret) Jason Kikta, Under Advisement was born out of an urgent need to share, and receive, unclassified cyber threat indicators with private sector partners during the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. Kikta and his small team of cyber experts quickly realized how critical it was to have unified responses to major cyber events. UNAD officially stood up in 2020, ahead of the Presidential elections, and enabled defense against foreign interference.

“We’ve seen how critical UNAD has been in major cyber events such as SolarWinds, Hafnium, and Colonial Pipeline,” said Seales. “UNAD can be described as ‘CYBERCOM’s canaries in the coal mine’…we’re an early warning to malicious cyber activity. We warn our partners in a way that allows them to act and it’s done daily on a foundation of collaboration, trust, and partnership.”

After three years of continuous, real-time information sharing and collaborative response to national-level events such as Solar Winds and Colonial Pipeline, the program hopes to build upon lessons-learned and successes while doubling the number of private-sector partnerships in 2023.

The Cyber National Mission Force is the U.S. military’s joint cyber force charged with defending the Nation in cyberspace through offensive, defensive, and information operations. CNMF’s mission is to plan, direct, and synchronize full-spectrum cyberspace operations to deter, disrupt, and defeat adversary cyber and malign actors. The organization supports national missions and U.S. Cyber Command priorities such as election security, ransomware, cyber espionage, and other crisis and contingencies.

For more information, or questions about participating in the program, reach out to U.S. Cyber Command’s Under Advisement team here.

By Cyber National Mission Force Public Affairs

28 IS Fusion Cell Support Grand Slam for Full Spectrum SOF at Emerald Warrior 2023

Friday, May 26th, 2023


Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) wrapped up its 16th annual Emerald Warrior exercise May 6, 2023. The exercise provided realistic and relevant, high-end pre-deployment training, encompassing multiple joint operating areas to ensure preparedness of Special Operations Forces, Conventional Force enablers, Partner Forces and Interagency elements. This year’s exercise locations included Hurlburt Field, Homestead Air Reserve Base and Puerto Rico.

Five Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 28th Intelligence Squadron were key players in the event. The Airmen were critical to the success of the Intelligence (J2) Fusion Cell’s work. The Fusion Cell pushed out multiple “articles, tweets, and social media posts” regarding a massive earthquake destroying key infrastructure in Puerto Rico. This event became the first of many injects requiring the deployed Joint Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) and units to make decisive decisions on behalf of the nation and partner nations.

“Synchronizing Information Related Capabilities across Intelligence, Information Operations, Cyber, Space, and Public Affairs SMEs (subject matter experts) allowed us to further educate our SOTG and SOTU (Special Operations Task Unit) commanders on the capabilities they can provide when down range, said Maj Jessica Vogle, the 28 IS’s assistant director of operations, who served as the Emerald Warrior J2 and Fusion Cell lead.

Vogle went on to say, “Whether it be the utilization of cyber effects to create complex dilemmas for our adversaries, space capabilities to get a site picture of the operation area or using Information Operations and/or Public Affairs to get strategic messaging out into the public, fusion cells create operational effects in the information environment and strategic advantage for AFSOF, our allies and partners through unique access and placement.”

In Emerald Warrior 23, the Fusion Cell led and processed 90 Requests for Information, 498 Red Cell injects, 11 Publicly Available Information roll ups, four spot reports, seven tear lines and eight additional J2 products.

The 21st Special Tactics Squadron completed pre-deployment qualifications for Air Force Force Generation model readiness posture. Four missions were executed during the course of the event: Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief, Integrated Deterrence, Information Operations/Cyber.

445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

General Dynamics Mission Systems and Abaco Collaborate to Answer Embedded Cybersecurity Battlefield Challenges

Thursday, April 27th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn.— General Dynamics Mission Systems and AMETEK Abaco Systems are partnering to deliver several new products featuring advanced encryption and anti-tamper enabled capabilities to address the need for rugged, embedded secure processing and storage solutions at the board level.

The partnership combines General Dynamics’ programmable, embeddable security for communications, networking, and related equipment requiring high-grade cryptographic processing up to Top Secret with Abaco’s innovative rugged embedded computing, networking, and processing technology.

“Together, we are leveraging the complementary skills, knowledge, and experience of each company to enhance existing products,” said Scott Dunderdale, General Dynamics Mission Systems vice president and general manager for Land and Air Systems. “The partnership will also help us develop new products and pursue business opportunities of mutual interest that will improve our rugged embedded systems capabilities.”

The partnership allows the companies to rapidly bring highly secure, open architecture, and differentiated products to the market to address the defense industry’s most challenging embedded electronics requirements. Working together will allow the companies to build cybersecurity into the products from the start, rather than a less effective bolt-on at the end.

Mike Underwood, division vice president and business unit manager at Abaco, adds, “This unique partnership enables Abaco and General Dynamics to quickly provide advanced embedded cryptographic solutions for communications, networking, electronic warfare, and other mission operations around the world. Working together, we will provide innovative answers to embedded open systems encryption and cybersecurity challenges.”