Navy to build its 'information dominance' forces through new command

Monday - 2/24/2014, 3:53am EST

Jared Serbu reports.

Download mp3

The Navy says it's about to create a new home for its growing cadre of what it calls "information dominance" forces.

A new organization will begin to take shape this fall, taking on the responsibility for manning, training and equipping the entire service for information warfare.

The move is a significant follow-up to the Navy's 2009 decision to merge several disciplines, including cyber, intelligence, meteorology, oceanography and electronic warfare into a single large workforce cadre called "information dominance forces."

Within the next few weeks, officials expect Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert to sign off on an implementation plan to stand up a new command to continue to build and organize that force.

Vice Adm. Ted Branch, a deputy chief of naval operations and the Navy's chief of information dominance, said the service expects the new organization to reach its initial operating capability by October. It will fall within the auspices of the existing Navy Cyber Forces, headquartered in Suffolk, Va.

"That means that resources will move from my staff at the Pentagon, from the Office of Naval Intelligence, from the commander of naval oceanography and from Fleet Cyber Command into that new type command," Branch said Friday during an AFCEA gathering in Tysons Corner, Va. "That type commander will be responsible for the manning, training and equipping of the entire information dominance corps and for moving forward information dominance in the Navy."

The ninth command

The Information Dominance Forces Command would be the ninth type command (TYCOM) in the Navy, and would have similar responsibilities to the others, but a broader reach. The others are all responsible for holding administrative control over specific categories of platforms, like naval aircraft, submarines or surface ships.

"For the platform TYCOMs, it's pretty easy to figure out what they're dealing with if it looks like a ship or a submarine or an airplane. This one will have the information dominance corps and the cyber activities, all that kind of man train and equip, but it will also have responsibility for the rest of the Navy," Branch said. "The systems commands, naval reactors, medical, anybody that has a network will have a line to the information dominance TYCOM. So it's a big job, but it's the right thing to do as we move information dominance down the path and make it a warfighting pillar."

Navy officials say the standup of the command will mean some other changes to the way the service organizes its current cyber workforce.

Some of Navy Cyber Forces' existing responsibilities for operating and defending Navy networks will transition to the service's 10th Fleet/Fleet Cyber Command, the Navy component of U.S. Cyber Command. Navy Cyber Forces, meanwhile, will focus more exclusively on training and equipping the workforce.

Branch said the new organization's relatively difficult task will be to integrate the skills and expertise of what used to be five distinct career fields in the Navy: Intelligence specialists, information warfare officers, information professionals, oceanographers and the space cadre.

"We brought that all together and said, 'OK, we used to be five different tribes, now we're going to be one corps and be able to practice information dominance warfare,'" Branch said. "That's moving along, but it's not cooked yet, because people who grew up in those different specialties are pretty zealous about what those specialties bring to the game, and they don't want to lose their identities. I tell people all the time, though, that we're not trying to homogenize the community or diminish the depth of expertise. What we're doing is providing a broader experience. We're doing cross-detailing so we can move from a multidisciplinary group of folks to an interdisciplinary corps, so we can innovate and find answers to some of the far-reaching decisions we're going to make as we apply these new systems and techniques for information warfare in the future."

Information dominance as warfighters

The Navy says its information dominance strategy, initiated when it first combined its top officer billets for intelligence and for communications into the job Branch currently holds, is based on the idea that it ought to be able to synthesize skill sets its sailors already hold in various communities across the service into a single warfighting capability.

The eventual goal, Branch said, is to have information dominance leaders sitting at the same table, at the same level as other decision makers in, for example, a carrier strike group.

"We will have arrived when we have our internal audience, the information dominance corps, thinking of themselves as warfighters," he said. "And probably more importantly, when the rest of the guys, the kinetic guys, the trigger-pullers start thinking of the information dominance corps as warfighters, we'll get there."

RELATED STORIES:

Vice Adm. Jack Dorsett on Information Dominance

Navy Cyber Forces command to move to Suffolk

Navy admiral is Obama's pick to take reins of NSA