Adm. Michael Rogers, the head of U.S. Cyber Command who will step down this spring, said one of the highlights of his tenure has been cyber’s integration into other organizations.
“The positive thing ... is cyber’s integration with other operational commands, particularly [Central Command], [Special Operations Command], some things we’re doing out in the Pacific with Pacific Command. That has been a real strength,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a Feb. 27 hearing.
Rogers and others have noted there is no expectation that the requirements to integrate cyber effects with traditional military operations will fade. To that end, Rogers, both in his oral and written testimony, referenced the ongoing operations against the Islamic State group in cyberspace under the effort called Joint Task Force-Ares.
“Joint Task Force-Ares, the organization we created to lead the fight in cyber against ISIS, has successfully integrated cyberspace operations in to that broader military campaign and achieved some excellent results,” he said.
He noted some of the command and control structures put in place for JTF-Ares, which have “worked out very, very well.”
Additionally, in written testimony, Rogers noted that the command has learned from these operations and “directed our components to apply these and related lessons as we transition our temporary, joint task force model for fighting ISIS in cyberspace to an analogous and enduring construct that addresses the threat of violent extremism worldwide.”
One of the lessons learned from the cyber efforts to combat ISIS is that targeting the cyber domain is similar to targeting in the physical domains.
Operations against ISIS and other non-state entities also extend beyond ISIS’s strongholds in Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan.
“We have watched and opposed their emergence on the battlefield and in cyberspace, and noted their conflicts with the government in Kabul and other insurgent groups. The Afghan area of hostilities represents another important operating area for cyberspace operations,” Rogers’ written testimony reads. “USCYBERCOM is in the fight there as well, employing cyberspace operations to protect Coalition forces, target terrorist leaders, and disrupt the operations of hostile forces. We are providing similar support to our forces battling other violent extremist groups in Africa and Asia.”
Given the demand for cyber’s integration Cyber Command recently stood up forward-deployed planning cells within the combatant command staffs to help better coordinate offensive and defensive cyber effects.
These Cyber Operations - Integrated Planning Elements (CO-IPEs) will hopefully be at full operational capability within the next five years, Rogers wrote.
This campaign planning structure from a planning perspective, has been a focus for in the last calendar year, he told the committee. “That’s just some great work, that really sets the foundation for the future and gets cyber into a much more traditional ‘hey, look we’re no different in our mission set than CENTCOM in terms of the mechanism and the framework they’re using to plan.”
Rogers explained that the cyber mission force, which includes 133 teams and 6,200 employees, will reach a key milestone known as full operational capability ahead of schedule this year.
However, that construct was based on an assessment from 10 years ago, he said, and changes may be needed.
After the services finish the build out of these teams and they reach FOC, he said he’d like to “retool” the structure because they can take advantages of lessons learned in the last eight years.
U.S. Cyber Command is applying lessons learned from operations and training exercises to refine the deployment of cyber teams and effects.
“We’re probably going to need some level of additional capacity over time,” he said. “That’s something I’ll be talking to my successor about.”