Information Forces Strive to Provide Navy with Most Accurate, Secure Communications
By NICK ADDE, Seapower Special Correspondent
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The fact that only one-third of his command deployed at sea and in uniform illustrates how important his shore-based component is, Rear Adm. Matt Kohler, commander, Naval Information Forces, said.
“There are 54,000 of us — on active duty, in the Reserves and in our civilian component,” Kohler said, during an April 3 presentation at the Sea-Air-Space Exposition. “All three are critical, in order to deliver information,” he said.
Formed in accord with the Pentagon’s overall new emphasis on cyber security, Naval Information Forces unites the service’s cyber, electronic warfare, information operations, intelligence, networks, and space disciplines under one umbrella.
Kohler described how the Navy is continuing to improve information-warfare capabilities, to ensure that the fleet receives the quickest, most accurate and most secure communications possible.
The mission is all the more critical as the Navy shifts into a higher mode of alert, Kohler said, in response to the increased capabilities and potential for aggression from adversaries.
“We operated in a relatively benign environment 20 years ago. Those times aren’t faded — they’re gone,” Kohler said. “The Navy has to return back to skills it had [before then] — sea control. That’s what the Navy provides this nation.”
Meeting mission requirements require integration, distribution and maneuver, Kohler said. The Navy has done a superb job of integrating new platforms such as the Aegis combat system, but more needs to be done to keep pace with the advances potential adversaries have made, he said.
“We’re taking the relatively few assets we have a maximizing effectiveness. The key point is making the problem set more difficult and challenging for our would-be adversaries,” Kohler said.
Information-warfare capabilities must be spread out and able to move quickly.
“The more we distribute our forces, the greater premium is placed on command and control,” he said.
Success hinges upon delivery of a complete palate of communications capabilities without being targeted.
To meet that end, Kohler cited two constructs — establishment of the Information Warfare [IW] Development Center, and fostering careers of information warfare commanders.
Creation of the development center is well under way, with headquarters at Norfolk Naval Station, Va., and sites at Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, Miss.
The fleet can expect to see more subject matter experts — senior enlisteds and junior officers — emerge as tactics instructors. Already, their presence on deployed ships has fostered a cultural change — in which commanding officers willingly rely upon their expertise, Kohler said.
“We’re now seeing information warfare [experts] across all designators,” Kohler said. “Feedback has been phenomenal.”
He cited a strike group that returned from a recent combat-heavy deployment, in which cyber warfare experts played an active role.
“To a fair degree, the IW commander was the support team commander, in terms of how the strike team functioned,” Kohler said.