The Marines are looking to develop and equip specialized tactical cyber teams with a specific defensive tool set. These teams, known as defensive cyber operations-internal defensive measures (DCO-IDM) companies, are designed to help defend critical digital assets at the tip of the spear.
These companies will fall under the newly established Marine Expeditionary Force Information Groups, or MIGs, and one will reside within each MEF providing MEF commanders information-related capabilities to include cyber, intelligence, electronic warfare and information operations.
The Marine Corps is building cyber defenders to deploy with its forward networks in theater.
All three DCO-IDM companies have reached the minimum threshold for deployment, though their specific kits are not in place yet, Gregg Kendrick, executive director of Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command, said Dec. 6 at the Charleston Defense Contractors Association Defense Summit.
The Marine Corps activated the first of its new defensive cyber teams within the Marine Air Ground Task Force.
In the interim, service-retained cyber protection teams — strategic-level defensive cyber teams that feed up to U.S. Cyber Command — are partnering with the companies to conduct operations and participate in exercises.
These companies will serve as a “paired down version” of cyber protection teams in the cyber mission force and be employed at the Marine Air Ground Task Force level, said MGySgt Carlos Torres, senior enlisted Marine in the cyberspace division for the Deputy Commandant for Information, during the annual C4ISRNET Conference in May. The companies have used the expertise from cyber protection teams and Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command throughout their establishment.
Kendrick said the companies and elements of a cyber protection team participated in the NATO-led Trident Juncture exercise in Norway that took place from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7.
Kenneth Bible, deputy director of the C4 directorate and deputy CIO, said Trident Juncture served as a good example of giving these teams exposure to operations and commanders, who want this capability.
Kendrick added that the deputy commandant for information, which oversees all aspects of information for the Corps, to include the MIGs, requested Marines with intelligence backgrounds to go to each of the DCO-IDM companies.
This will allow them to begin the process of establishing an organic intelligence support ability in the defensive cyber sphere as opposed to having to rely on outside resources, such as Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command. This is critical given the expeditionary and tactical nature of these teams.