Tag Archives: Department of Defense

Cyber’s impact on military strategy

782nd Military Intelligence Battalion

Within America’s military “cyber” has held status as a powerful buzzword for many years. At all levels of military planning and operations, leaders of units have tried to get a piece of the cyber pie and integrate its concepts into their operations. One of the central questions that has persisted around cyber is how and to what extent will cyber conflict require a reconsideration of strategy. The military exists largely in two broad areas: the strategic level of long-term and large-scale planning, and the tactical level of smaller-scale, short-term operations. Cyber will undoubtedly have an effect on both of these operational domains.

When examining both domains, cyber’s effect on strategy can be examined from a short-term and long-term perspective. The military’s strategic level deals with long-term plans crafted at high levels of leadership. Strategic plans tend to address questions dealing with conducting entire war campaigns. From this perspective, in the short term, new cyber capabilities will require little reconsideration of the basic strategies the military employs. The Department of Defense’s mission is overall national defense, primarily from foreign adversaries. That has not and will not change. Even in the 2015 release of the DOD’s cyber strategy, Defense Secretary Ash Carter compared challenges posed by cyber to old Cold War challenges. The reason for this is that, initially, new technology is viewed from the perspective of what is familiar to the user. The military as a whole simply took cyber and used it to optimize its existing strategies and methods. Cyber has been used in new avenues of foreign intelligence, it gives commanders new ways to view battlefields and it has been integrated into weapons systems. But the base strategies the military employs have yet to really change. The most notable short-term change comes from the military’s job to defend the United States. In the past, attacks on U.S. soil and U.S. infrastructure the military needed to respond to were few and far between, with 9/11 and Pearl Harbor being prominent instances. But with the ever-increasing worldwide connectivity in the digital age, American infrastructure, government and industry are constantly open to attack from foreign entities and governments. The result is that for some military components, actively defending the United States is a full-time job.

Long-term changes, on the other hand, have the possibility of prompting a massive change to military strategy. The world has already seen hints of possible cyber strategy for the future. Between 2011 and 2013, Iran initiated cyber attacks on U.S. infrastructure, including banks, dams and educational institutions. Although the attacks were minimized, they showed the potential for damage to the nation. One bank, Zions Bancoporation, lost more than $400,000 while its website was down for only two hours. If larger institutions or a large number of financial institutions were targeted for long periods of time, the financial damage could be upward of millions or billions of dollars. Iran targeted infrastructure that could cause physical damage as well. The Bowman Avenue Dam in New York was breached by Iran hackers to the point where they could have controlled sluice gates that hold back water. Luckily, the controls had been manually disconnected for maintenance around the same time, which prevented the Iranian hackers from actually having control over the dam. More devastating cyber attacks were seen in 2008 during the Russo-Georgian War. Russian cyber attacks were coordinated with the Russian invasion of Georgia. As the Russians advanced into the country and fighting ramped up, so did the cyber campaign. Given that it was 2008 and Georgia had a relatively basic technology infrastructure, the Russian attacks were mainly designed to cause confusion during their ground campaign. But given the current situation in the Ukraine, the Russo-Georgian War seems to provide warnings when examined in hindsight. The question for the future is how advanced and efficient these techniques can become. Will we see the capability to shut down entire power grids, communication structures, water systems or dams? If so, and if we do not maintain the ability to defend them, the devastation from such cyber attacks could start and end wars before any ground troops are deployed or kinetic weapons are fired. At the very least, cyber capabilities will become more integrated into strategic plans as the world continues to become more reliant on technology and digital communications.

The tactical side of the equation is relatively stable. In the short term, the strategies employed by ground troops in their operations will remain the same, while new cyber-based capabilities are employed to support those operations. One of the most visible integrations we see today is the ability to quickly and accurately locate targets. Especially given the often chaotic state of urban warfare — where a mix of friendly, hostile and neutral elements are all intermixed — the ability to quickly and accurately characterize all three groups is vital. In reality, the military has been integrating these capabilities into ground operations for a while, but incorporating them into the everyday unit on a large scale is the new challenge. In October of 2015, the Army tested these capabilities on a large scale with a cyber validation exercise that occurred at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. The 780th Military Intelligence Brigade provided cyber capability support to the 2-2 Infantry Division and the 201st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade. Traditional military units were able to provide adequate support and protection to the cyber elements that aided in target identification and verification. This type of cyber support is used in many other instances, such as drone targeting, and has been used not only for identification of high-value targets but has also aided in identifying and tracking hostages. None of these ideas or strategies are really new, but cyber is accomplishing them in new ways and, at times, accomplishes them more accurately, making ground troops’ job easier and safer.

Long-term changes are dependent on the type of technological changes that occur in the future. The drone program has become one of the most visible — and for some, the most concerning — use of modern technology in military operations. Currently, the drones are just planes with no physical cockpit, and the actual act of targeting and firing upon targets is controlled by humans. But many are already talking about the possibility of letting drones be fully controlled by computers. These drones would draw on intelligence sources, verify targets, make decisions about risk and decide whether to fire, all without a human’s direct input. These weapons are actually pretty easy to make and have been made already. The questions about implementing these into normal everyday operations come down more to ethics than capability. Should computers be deciding who dies? Are computer databases of laws and treaties good enough for a computer to cross-reference and then decide if international law can be breached? Who is accountable if the computer makes a mistake? At this point, the consensus is that this is a terrible idea. An open letter was presented at the opening of the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in 2015 warning of the dangers of weapons under the control of artificial intelligence. This letter was endorsed by the likes of Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, and more than 40 robotics researchers from around the world.  Even the DOD decided to address this topic years ago with DOD Directive 3000.09, which stipulates that all weapons systems must be designed to have “appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force.” From this, it seems that in the future, cyber will not replace or eliminate the need for human ground troops. How extensively cyber gets integrated with tactical operations has yet to be seen.

Cyber, like all new forms of technology, has affected all aspects of our lives, and the military is not immune from its influence. Computer technology has been integrated into the lives of everyone from the commander in chief all the way down to the enlisted Soldier on a patrol. How far this integration goes in the future is really up to the imagination of technology inventors and innovators. For now, cyber seeks to make the lives of Soldiers easier, more efficient and safer.

U.S. Army Pvt. Christian Garcia, a radar operator (foreground), and Spc. James Craig (background), a Field Artillery surveyor, both from the Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, weave cords through the camouflage net in order to keep their radar and area of operation concealed during Saber Strike 16 at Tapa Training Area, Estonia, June 19, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)
U.S. Army Pvt. Christian Garcia, a radar operator (foreground), and Spc. James Craig (background), a Field Artillery surveyor, both from the Field Artillery Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, stationed out of Vilseck, Germany, weave cords through the camouflage net in order to keep their radar and area of operation concealed during Saber Strike 16 at Tapa Training Area, Estonia, June 19, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)

DoD extends paid maternity leave to 12 weeks

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DoD News, Defense Media Activity

The Department of Defense is increasing military maternity leave and instituting other changes in an effort to support military families, improve retention and strengthen the force of the future, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said earlier this month. Women throughout the joint force may take 12 weeks of fully paid maternity leave, Carter told reporters at the Pentagon. The 12-week benefit is double the amount of time for paid maternity leave from when he became defense chief nearly a year ago, he noted. “This puts DoD in the top tier of institutions nationwide and will have significant influence on decision-making for our military family members,” Carter said. Though an attractive incentive for recruiting and retaining talent, the secretary said, the benefit also promotes the health and wellness of mothers through facilitating recovery and promoting breastfeeding and bonding with the infant. “Our calculation is quite simple — we want our people to be able to balance two of the most solemn commitments they can ever make: a commitment to serve their country and a commitment to start and support a family,” he said.

Sgt. Rachel Badgeley, who is stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland, said she welcomes the new policy. After the birth of her son, Cannon, in December, she used six weeks of maternity leave and is now using 30 days of personal leave to be with her baby. At this stage of his life, “I can’t imagine sending him to a day care,” she said. “We have emotional needs. Bonding at this age is important for establishing a strong relationship.”

Support for new parents

The maternity leave decision applies to all service members in the active-duty component and to reserve-component members serving in a full-time status or on definite active-duty recall or mobilization orders in excess of 12 months.

The new policy allows less than the Navy, which decided last year to institute 18 weeks of fully-paid maternity leave, Carter noted. Sailors and Marines who are pregnant or who become pregnant within 30 days of the enactment of the policy may still take the full 18 weeks of paid leave, he said.

In addition, the Department of Defense is seeking legislation to expand military paternity leave from the current 10-day leave benefit to a 14-day noncontinuous leave benefit, he said.

Any increase of paternal leave would be welcoming news for fathers, said Staff Sgt. Jose Ibarra, also stationed at Fort Meade. Fathers need time to be with their infants, too.

“Bonding is a definite plus,” said Ibarra, a new dad who recently took his 10 days in addition to personal leave to be with his new son, Kai Roman.

In addition to bonding, Ibarra said he needed the time to help his wife, Ricel, recover and care for the infant.

Increasing hours of military child care

The Department of Defense subsidizes child care on military installations to ensure its affordability, Carter said. However, he added, military families often have to use outside providers because the hours at military child care facilities do not align with the work schedules of service members.

With those challenges in mind, the Department of Defense is increasing child care access to 14 hours of the day throughout the force, he said.

“By providing our troops with child care they can rely on from before reveille until after taps, we provide one more reason for them to stay on board,” he said. “We show them that supporting a family and serving our country are by no means incompatible goals.”

David Vergun, Army News Service, contributed to this report.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter discusses reforms to his Force of the Future program to improve the quality of life for military personnel during a briefing at the Pentagon, Jan 28, 2016. (Photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz / Department of Defense)
Defense Secretary Ash Carter discusses reforms to his Force of the Future program to improve the quality of life for military personnel during a briefing at the Pentagon, Jan 28, 2016. (Photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz / Department of Defense)



The Double Edged Sword — An Empowered NCO Corps

U.S. Special Operations Command

As we move toward the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, it is fitting to examine the effects of nearly 12 years of combat on our Noncommissioned Officer Corps. I submit that the greatest single effect is that at no time in our military’s history has the NCO Corps been more empowered.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were and are counterinsurgency fights. COIN is characterized by decentralized command and control and small unit tactics. For these two reasons, NCOs were given more responsibility and authority. You only have to watch the 2010 documentary Restrepo to see this empowerment in action. The reasons for NCO empowerment become even more obvious when you add the complexity of joint and coalition forces.

If we reflect on the successes on the battlefield of the last decade, it is due in large part to our NCOs. They have been magnificent at executing commanders’ guidance and intent in complex operational environments. Deployment after deployment, our NCOs have led troops in offensive action, stability operations, facilitation of governance, security force assistance, civil-military operations and a myriad of other missions. They have been truly remarkable at integrating joint-force and interagency capabilities.

How do we as a joint force preserve this trait as we transition out of combat in a time of fiscal uncertainty and force reductions? An empowered NCO Corps is essential to achieving the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Joint Force 2020 and “Mission Command” principles. In order to preserve our empowerment we — the NCOs — must understand and, more importantly, appreciate where it comes from.

Leaders at the organizational level, both commissioned and noncommissioned officers, must educate subordinates that NCO empowerment is a delegation of command authority and supported by the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It is not an inherent right gained by mission or responsibility. This simple fact has been lost in the noise of repetitive deployments where NCO roles and responsibilities have become standardized through tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) and standard operating procedures. I feel that this has created a strong sense of entitlement in our NCOs, a sense that can foment a negative outcome of arrogance, hubris and perhaps officer and NCO friction.

Without an appreciation and understanding of where this empowerment comes from, we — the NCOs — are in jeopardy of being disempowered. Under U.S. Code Title 10, officers are legally responsible and accountable for the personnel, missions and resources assigned to them. They are ultimately accountable for their service members’ conduct. If we violate that trust, why shouldn’t it be rescinded?

Should we be empowered if we allow a lack of adherence to the core principles and values of our Profession of Arms that leads to either specific or general misconduct? We will only ensure a perpetuation of this new dynamic through the exercise of trusted conduct in adherence to command authority and responsibility. To put it in, perhaps, simpler terms, I often hear from NCOs who state, “My officer does not empower me,” as though it is the result of bad leadership on the officer’s part. My response to them is, “Look yourself in the mirror and ask what you have done to earn or deserve it.”

While the tenet that trust is earned and not given may be an old adage, I fear it has been relegated to being simply trite and that the expectation on behalf of NCOs is the opposite. In the CJCS mission command paper, the chairman, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, clearly states the trust is a key attribute. “Mission command for Joint Force 2020 requires trust at every echelon of the force,” he writes. “Building trust with subordinates and partners may be the most important action a commander will perform. Given our projected need for superior speed in competitive cycles of decision-making, it is clear that in Joint Force 2020, operations will move at the speed of trust.”

Maintaining the current officer-NCO relationship is critical as we integrate a new generation that has not experienced combat operations. Without an understanding of delegation of command authority on behalf of the officer and the responsibility of delegated authority by the NCOs, we could, and likely will, see this trend reverse.

As we look across our military today, we can see the beginnings of the erosion of our empowerment. Whether we look at sexual harassment and assault, suicides, alcohol and substance abuse, or other discipline issues, it all boils down to leadership. I submit that the greatest failure of leadership is at the NCO level, and that begs us to examine why. I believe it is because of the negative edge of the sword – the hubris that comes with believing our empowerment is a right. From that belief stems a disdain for our leaders as we move to correct these problems. A final extension of this disdain is turning a blind eye to many of the behaviors that lead to bad conduct and create an environment that does not prevent, but instead fosters, misconduct and indiscipline.

This forces commanders to be more draconian in their approaches and disenfranchises NCOs. The potential for draconian measures does not simply exist within the Department of Defense. Congress may very well enact legislation regarding sexual harassment and assault investigations and prosecution that will deny commanders their current authority. The role we NCOs have in helping to preserve these authorities is self-evident.

The sword is double-edged. One side of the blade is critical to Joint Force 2020 and mission command. That edge has been forged in blood and the necessity of 12 years of war. The other edge — marred by hubris and entitlement — exists only to dull the first.


Command Sgt. Maj. Chris Faris is the senior enlisted advisor of U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.

DOD partners to combat brain injury

U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command

Experts from the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs gathered Aug. 14 at the Military Health System Research Symposium to discuss the future of research on mental health and traumatic brain injury.

Discussions turned toward the National Research Action Plan, or NRAP, which is the result of an executive order signed a year ago by President Barack Obama, to improve access to mental health services for veterans, service members and military families.

The plan directs DOD and the VA to work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education to share resources and complete certain goals.  One such goal to complete within the next year is the DOD, Center for Disease Control – Brain Trauma Foundation mild traumatic brain injury, or TBI/concussion classification project to clarify what is known and unknown about mild TBI and the critical gaps that need to be addressed.

“The National Research Action Plan creates a common roadmap for medical leadership to follow as we move forward to work on incredibly complex issues,” said Col. Douglas Hack, Combat Casualty Care Research program director at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, headquartered at Fort Detrick, Md.

“The National Research Action Plan demonstrates a dedication across multiple agencies to close critical research and care gaps, both in the military and civilian sector,” said Health Affairs Director of Medical Research Dr. Terry Rauch.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 2.5 million service members have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn. The Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center data indicates there have been more than 250,000 cases of TBI in the military, between 2000 and 2012. However, more than 80 percent of these cases were the result of non-combat injuries.

“Clearly, we are not going to stop seeing traumatic brain injuries, even in times of no war,” Hack said.

The NRAP also addresses frequently co-occurring conditions, such as depression, substance abuse related to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, including the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs, and chronic pain, each of which can complicate the prevention and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, know as PTSD, TBI, and suicidal behaviors.

“The interrelationships between TBI, PTSD, and suicidality are complex, to say the least,” said Dr. Robert Ursano, director of the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress.

“In fact, I think it was this war that highlighted these areas in relation to each other, as an opportunity for further investigation for research and treatment,” Ursano added.

Announced within the NRAP is also the creation of two joint research consortia, including the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD and the Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium. The two consortia will be established within the next six months and are within the first phase of the NRAP.

The Consortium to Alleviate PTSD is a collaborative effort between the University of Texas Health Science Center-San Antonio, San Antonio Military Medical Center and the Boston VA Medical Center, with the goal of developing the most effective diagnostic, prognostic, novel treatment, and rehabilitative strategies to treat acute PTSD and prevent chronic PTSD.

The Chronic Effects of Neurotrauma Consortium is a collaborative effort between Virginia Commonwealth University, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and the Richmond VA Medical Center with the goal of examining the factors which influence the chronic effects of mild TBI and common comorbidities in order to improve diagnostic and treatment options.

A key point will be to further the understanding of the relationship between mild TBI and neurodegenerative disease.

“Mild traumatic brain injury is an area we need to continue to focus on, in terms of rapid evaluation, treatment and patient management,” said Katherine Helmick, deputy director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Most service members with TBI, she said, have a mild injury or concussion.

“With a mild TBI, most service members can have a full recovery,” she said.

In its first 12 months, the NRAP will focus on developing a more precise system to diagnose TBI and standardizing data on TBI and PTSD. Longer-term goals include confirming biomarkers for PTSD and TBI, identifying changes in brain circuitry after successful treatment, and exploring genetic risk factors.

“The plan lays out the next five years, but this is really a lifelong commitment,” said Dr. Timothy O’Leary, acting chief officer of the Veterans Affairs Office of Research and Development. “That is the promise we make to our warfighters.”

Col. Dallas Hack (right), director of the U.S. Army's Combat Casualty Care Research Program, Dr. Terry Rauch, Health Affairs director of medical research, discuss veterans' mental health and traumatic brain injury research and care issues during the Military Health System Research Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Aug. 14, 2013.
Col. Dallas Hack (right), director of the U.S. Army’s Combat Casualty Care Research Program, and Dr. Terry Rauch, Health Affairs director of medical research, discuss veterans’ mental health and traumatic brain injury research and care during the Military Health System Research SymposiumAug. 14, 2013, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Photo by Melissa Miller)

From the Secretary of Defense: The integrity of the military justice process

Secretary of Defense

This reiterates my expectations and those of the President regarding the integrity of the military justice process. Every military officer and enlisted member of the Department of Defense is to be made aware of its contents.

Military justice is an essential element of good order and discipline, the indispensable ingredient that allows our Armed Forces to be the best in the world. Central to military justice is the trust that those involved in the process base their decisions on their independent judgment. Their judgment, in turn, must be based purely on the facts of each individual case, not personal interests, career advancement or an effort to produce what is thought to be the outcome desired by senior officials; military or civilian.

Service members and the American people must be confident that the military justice system is inherently fair and adheres to the fundamental principle of due process of law. Everyone who exercises discretionary authority in the military justice process must apply his or her independent judgment Military judges, commanders, convening authorities, criminal and administrative investigators, staff judge advocates, supervisors, Article 32 investigating officers, trial counsel, defense counsel, members of court-martial panels, and witnesses in military justice cases are among those included in this mandate.

Senior military and civilian leaders in the Department have an obligation to establish the standards of conduct expected of all military personnel. Drug abuse, sexual assault, hazing and other criminal misconduct are not acceptable; senior leaders have made. that clear and will continue to do so. But those comments are not made with the intent to indicate in any way what should or should not occur in any case. As Kathryn Ruemmler, the Counsel to the President, emphasized, “The President expects all military personnel who are involved in any way in the military justice process to exercise their independent professional judgment.”

To be clear, each military justice case must be resolved on its own facts. Those who exercise discretionary authority in the military justice process must exercise their independent judgment, consistent with applicable law and regulation. There are no expected or required dispositions, outcomes, or sentences in any military justice case, other than what result from the individual facts and merits of a case and the application to the case of the fundamentals of due process of law.

Please ensure that this message is widely and immediately disseminated throughout your organizations. The integrity of the military justice process is too important to risk any misunderstanding of what the President and I expect from those involved in it.