On Oct 1st, the Center for Stragetic and International Studies hosted an address by the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead, looking at the Navy’s initiatives to stay ahead of the challenges of the new cyber domain.  The event, held at the Capital Hilton’s Congressional Room, was very well attended, and was followed by a press event with Rear Admiral David Dorsett, currently Direct of Naval Intelligence.

ADM Roughead began by acknowledging that the power of networks had allowed a fusion of information, intelligence, and operations in new and hyper efficient ways.   The Cyber Age required new strategic concepts, and information sharing capabilities that exceeded the abilities of our current ways of doing business.  He admitted that our qualitative advantage in general naval power was built upon a “dependence on unfettered access to information.”  The space within which the information “battle” is being fought is presently contested.  America and its Navy do not have dominance in the cyber realm.

The cyber domain is contested for several reasons.  First, the pace of decision making is so fast that it is difficult for our current command and control mechanisms to keep up.  Second, the cost of entering this field is relatively low, and allows in anyone who chooses to do so.  Next, it is self governing, whether we like it or not, and attempts to impose “rules” are unlikely to succeed.  Lastly, it is pervasive, persistent, and adaptive.  It rewards speed of decision, creativity, and flexibility.  All of these factors give leverage to smaller foes.

Roughead contended that the Navy understands networks, and the challenges we face.  They have many years of experience with the concepts and methodologies that are ubiquitous in the cyber realm.  He also pointed out that in 1996 the Navy was named the Executive Agent for Cyber within DoD.  (Note: This is a fact that I never knew, and I’ll bet that the Air Force didn’t either.)

As to the changes the Navy is initiating, the most important is the consolidation of the Director of Naval Intelligence (N2) with the Director of C4I (N6), into the Director of Information Dominance (N2/6).  This office will have acquisition authority for all intelligence, IT, electronics, unmanned platforms, crypto, and other related issues.  The director will “own” all Navy networks, classified, unclassified, administrative, and operational.  This came up specifically during the Q&A when it was asked if the new Director will also deal with the issue of sailors using social networking tools for personal communication.  After his answer that the Director would also deal with that issue, Roughead pointed out that more and more, social networking methods were being used for operational tasks.  Standard “chat” tools are used today for operational command and control today, and how we will be doing tomorrow is anyone’s guess.

The next major change is the establishment of the Naval Cyber Command, which will act as the maritime sub-unified command for US Cyber Command.  It will be headquartered at Ft. Meade, Maryland and the commander will be dual hatted as the Commander, US 10th Fleet.   This command will have over 44,000 sailors from the information, intelligence, IT, and cryptological fields.  These specialties would be considered warfighters by the Navy, not support personnel.

The most relevant question had to do with how could the acquisition processes keep up with the technology needs.  The CNO simply said that while he did not yet have an answer to that, he was working on it, and recognized it as a major problem to be overcome.

Overall, it was an excellent session that showed the Navy’s savvy and their seriousness in addressing the cyber challenges.  The CNO completely understood the magnitude of the changes he was directing his service to take, and realized they were doing what was needed.

Dr. Steven Bucci is director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He was previously a lead consultant to IBM on cyber security policy. Bucci’s military and government service make him a recognized expert in the interagency process and defense of U.S. interests, particularly with regard to critical infrastructure and what he calls the productive interplay of government and the private sector. Read More