Cyber Defense Review

Broadening Opportunities for Cyber Officers

By CPT Brent Chapman, LTC James Finocchiaro | January 23, 2015

In a recent trip to Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, members of the Army Cyber Institute (ACI) visited the Communication-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) of the US Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM).

Led by Director Henry Muller’s, CERDEC’s six directorates support its mission to develop engineering technology solutions for America’s Soldiers. On this particular visit, the ACI met with Mr. Kevin Boyle, Chief Technology Officer of the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate (I2WD) and Dr. Paul Zablocky, Director of the Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate (STCD).  The visit included not only command briefs from senior leaders of their respective organizations, but also tours of several of CERDEC’s labs and facilities. The ACI discovered some great opportunities for collaboration with these very talented Civilian Engineers, Scientists and Technicians.

The opportunity for short- and long-term collaboration is ideal as a broadening assignment for our new 17 series Cyber Branch Officers (Cyber Officers).  There are several advantages for the Cyber Mission Force, RDECOM and the officer himself in such an assignment.  In both the I2WD and STCD organizations, there exists a cyberspace operations section supported by world-class facilities and staffed by civilian experts.  Cyber Officers would serve in an environment in which their skills in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics discipline would improve with exposure to cutting edge technology and modern techniques.  Concurrently, these officers are empowered by providing critical information about usage and implementation in operations that materiel developers can use to improve their products.  These invaluable contributions will have a direct impact on the effectiveness of the Cyber Mission Forces and help improve the communications and information collections systems of Division and below systems.   And this collaboration must occur else the cyber warfighter will continue to move in a direction without understanding their support network or the warfighting capabilities that are almost ready to be deployed.

In I2WD, a Cyber Officer would be on the cutting edge of development of Offensive and Defense Cyber Operations capabilities.  They would have first-hand access to government and commercial emerging technologies for building new Army cyber resources. In the I2WD Cyberspace Operations Section, Cyber Branch Officers could help build cyber situational awareness tools that could be used to better analyze adversary networks. Additionally, a Cyber Officer would be serving the tactical army by conducting research and testing in the Electronic Warfare section, the Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance & Targeting section, and the Intelligence Analysis, Exploitation & Dissemination section.

In STCD, a Cyber Officer would still be expanding their knowledge of Computers, Networks, and Radio Frequencies.  While this side of CERDEC is focused on warfighter’s communication capabilities, the Cyber Officer would be using offensive techniques, like an adversary, against our current communications equipment and structure. Their efforts would focus on disrupting Mission Command and our Intelligence support systems.

The questions rest less in why these organizations should achieve this integration, but rather how it can be realized.  One possibility may exist with an assignment in the ACI.  Select officers would be assigned to the ACI’s Chief of Institutional Research with duty at Aberdeen Proving Grounds. An example of this would have to scale yet would only require a handful of Cyber Professionals. One way forward would be for a Major, serving as the ACI senior leader, or detachment commander, at Aberdeen. Captains and lieutenants and potentially warrant and enlisted grades could be assigned as a three Soldier team.  This type of team structure would the minimum needed to build a path and forge the appropriate relationship in the CERDEC directorate. The time spent could be short, as short as a 90 day TDY, but could also be up to two years to really build connections with the appropriate people. This would not atrophy the technological edge of our Soldiers, but instead make them more capable and give a Cyber Officer an experience they would bring back to the Cyber Mission Forces or Command Headquarters that proves their technical merit.  This is why CERDEC and Aberdeen Proving Grounds has been recognized as the Cyber Technology Center of Excellence (