DOD Must Train for ‘Degraded’ Environments, Official Says

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2011 — The mil­i­tary needs to do a bet­ter job of train­ing to con­duct oper­a­tions in less-than-per­fect con­di­tions, the chair­man of the Defense Sci­ence Board said here today.
Paul G. Kamin­s­ki told the Defense Writ­ers Group that giv­en the cyber and space threat envi­ron­ment that exists today and like­ly will grow in the future, com­man­ders must be ready for these types of oper­a­tions.

Kaminis­ki spoke in advance of the Sci­ence Board’s sum­mer study that will be released short­ly.

The chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff agrees. In the Nation­al Mil­i­tary Strat­e­gy released yes­ter­day, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen wrote, “Our abil­i­ty to oper­ate effec­tive­ly in space and cyber­space, in par­tic­u­lar, is increas­ing­ly essen­tial to defeat­ing aggres­sion. The Unit­ed States faces per­sis­tent, wide­spread and grow­ing threats from state and non­state actors in space and cyber­space.”

The chair­man said the U.S. mil­i­tary, “must grow capa­bil­i­ties that enable oper­a­tions when a com­mon domain is unus­able or inac­ces­si­ble.”

Build­ing workarounds, iso­lat­ing or cau­ter­iz­ing a cyber attack are things that com­man­ders should learn in an exer­cise, not on the bat­tle­field, Kamin­s­ki said.

“We think we are falling way short in what we need to be doing to look at degrad­ed oper­a­tions,” he said.

Degrad­ed oper­a­tions are caused by unan­tic­i­pat­ed changes in the envi­ron­ment and unan­tic­i­pat­ed changes in how sys­tems per­form. They affect a num­ber of Defense Depart­ment capa­bil­i­ties, includ­ing com­mand, con­trol and com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems and “all of the net­cen­tric activ­i­ties that we are depen­dent upon that cer­tain­ly going to be attacks in active cyber ways,” the for­mer defense under­sec­re­tary said.

Degrad­ed oper­a­tions also will affect U.S. depen­dence on both orbital and air­borne intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance assets, Kamin­s­ki added.

An ene­my could attempt to degrade the envi­ron­ment and attack the U.S. military’s reliance on elec­tron­ic nav­i­ga­tion and the Amer­i­can depen­dence on elec­tron­ic war­fare in gen­er­al, he explained, and this could reach to try­ing to dis­rupt sup­plies through the U.S. crit­i­cal logis­tics infra­struc­ture.

The Defense Sci­ence Board looked at what the depart­ment is doing to pre­pare for degrad­ed oper­a­tions at four lev­els: the strate­gic lev­el, the oper­a­tional lev­el, the tac­ti­cal lev­el and the indi­vid­ual lev­el.

“We find dif­fer­ences in the ser­vices at the indi­vid­ual lev­el,” Kamin­s­ki said. “The Marines still turn off GPS sys­tems and use a map and com­pass to find their way by dead reck­on­ing. Spe­cial oper­a­tors also do some good train­ing.”

But the far­ther up the chain, “the worse it gets as far as train­ing that we do,” he added.

When the Air Force first put elec­tron­ic war­fare into its Red Flag com­bat train­ing exer­cis­es, Kamin­s­ki said, “they decid­ed not to do it again, because it ruined the whole exer­cise.” One way to con­duct degrad­ed-envi­ron­ment exer­cis­es, Kamin­s­ki said, is to intro­duce the envi­ron­ment and grade peo­ple on how they react. Anoth­er is to keep push­ing the enve­lope until the sys­tem breaks. A com­bi­na­tion of the two sce­nar­ios is nec­es­sary, he told the defense writ­ers.

“You need to con­duct the break-the-sys­tem exer­cis­es and put it into the train­ing where we grade peo­ple,” he said. “This is not a high-cost thing to do. It is a high-oppor­tu­ni­ty cost, because to do this right, you need to have senior lead­ers in place to par­tic­i­pate so it does place demands on people’s sched­ules. But this needs to be addressed.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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