Once reserved only for the highest levels of the military, cyberspace is now becoming part of the operating environment for all commanders — from the squad to corps.

Commanders are now recognizing that cyber has to be integrated with traditional ground operations, which means they will need to be able to understand and visualize that environment in order to plan operations and maneuver within it alongside physical troops.

Cyber “has to be integrated into traditional kinetic mission command-type activities,” Chris Valentino, vice president of global cyber solutions for Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, told C4ISRNET in a phone interview during the AUSA annual conference Oct. 14.

With the Army and other services moving toward consolidating related capabilities under the umbrella of information warfare, these integrated capabilities have to be able to provide the requisite sensing and analytics to create useful common operating pictures or situational awareness and understanding of the different environments.

The Army, in fact, is expected to release a request for information for a program called Cyber Situational Understanding, a command post tool that will help commanders envision the cyber environment.

“We’re looking at the depiction of a commander’s battlespace — displaying the effects [and] the operational impact of what is occurring in the network, not necessarily just a network map of what occurred in the network. What is their impact to the mission, to the operation,” Col. John Transue, capability manager for cyber at the Cyber Center of Excellence, said during an August conference.

In looking at how to support the Army in this effort, Valentino said his company has been focused on understanding how to incorporate cyber situational awareness and understanding into mission command at the tactical level.

“How do you do that in a way that it’s useful, meaning it’s actionable and you can make decisions based on it ... how do you do that so it integrates within the Army’s current mission computing environments?” he said.

Data will be a critical commodity for tactical commanders in future conflicts and it must be integrated to generate actual successes.

“You have to be able to truly manage big data in a stable environment, in a disconnected environment, in a contested environment — but at the end of the day … you have to ultimately be able to strategically manage that as an assert,” George Franz, cybersecurity lead for Accenture Federal Services’ national security business, told C4SIRNET at the AUSA conference Oct. 14. “Data is going to be sometimes more important than ammunition and fuel, and other times it’s going to enable those other things.”

Franz, who was the former director of operations at U.S. Cyber Command, also explained that Accenture is in the beginning stages of intellectual thought on how to conduct mission command in a digital environment. Suddenly, tools that were used to manage workflows and were useful for generic IT and network managers will now be critically important to commanders to help them understand their environment and command forces within it.

This notion of digital mission command is enabled around cloud, data and analytics.

“You can’t have a set of tools just on the administrative side, like logistics tools or IT or service. If those don’t integrate with your mission command, your operational tools, you’re going to be inherently just grossly inefficient,” he said. “It’s this notion of how do you build a common operating picture, situational understanding where the commander can see the status of his forces, at the same time seeing them in battlespace and seeing them in an operational environment.”

Franz added that as the Army is looking to reorganize around an information warfare command that integrates cyber, electronic warfare and information operations to be prepared for information warfare writ large, commanding information demands a different way of thinking than traditional operations.