'A New Era in Naval Warfare'

By Vice Admiral Ted N. Branch, U.S. Navy

Leveraging operational surprise through mastery of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS), the U.S. forces arrive on station before Omega can launch its initial assault into Alpha. The U.S. commander is equipped with a penetrating knowledge of Omega’s force disposition, intentions, capabilities, and vulnerabilities. Our fleet’s unexpected arrival causes Omega to pause momentarily, providing time for U.S. forces to finalize their preparation of the battlespace and conduct offensive operations in cyberspace and the EMS.

U.S. oceanographers possess unmatched knowledge of the physical battlespace, including expected weather conditions, currents, sea-states, and tides. The U.S. commander knows where Omega’s assets are likely to operate and when and where they cannot operate. This insight allows the U.S. commander to position his or her forces and deploy intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) resources. He also knows the effect of the physical environment on propagation and ducting, enabling the U.S. Fleet’s Information Technology and Information Warfare professionals to tailor the friendly communications posture and electronic-warfare support measures most effectively. The U.S. commander sees the EMS from Omega’s perspective, as well as his own, allowing the luxury of maneuvering freely and rapidly through the spectrum and take offensive actions to Omega’s disadvantage.

U.S. intelligence capability has given our forces keen insight into Omega leadership’s mission objectives, intent, C4ISR systems, and fine-grain targeting data on Omega’s submarines, minefields, and missile launchers. This allows the U.S. fleet to evade detection and targeting during the critical early stages of the confrontation. Similarly, our knowledge of Omega network capabilities and force disposition allows us to implement preplanned responses that negate and defeat Omega’s offensive efforts in cyberspace.

Through a combination of kinetic strikes and network degradation, U.S. forces are able to diminish Omega’s command and control and destroy its limited maritime-patrol/over-the-horizon targeting assets, as well as its antiship ballistic- and cruise-missile capability. As a consequence, the confidence of Omega’s leadership is shaken by a lack of situational awareness, degraded command and control over its forces, and distrust of its sensors and warfighting capabilities, especially its non-kinetic assets. At this point, the Omega commander is overwhelmingly disadvantaged, unable to execute the planned invasion of Alpha, or strike a symbolic blow against the U.S. Fleet.

This obviously simplified scenario illuminates the operations that information dominance delivers.

What It Is

Our formal definition of information dominance is the operational advantage gained from fully integrating the Navy’s information functions, capabilities, and resources to optimize decision making and maximize warfighting effects. In other words, it means delivering decision-quality information where it matters and when it matters. It fosters freedom of maneuver in all domains, and integrates our fires, which may be projected through the network (or cyberspace or the electromagnetic spectrum) for soft kill, or delivered through the physical environment for hard kill. To make these capabilities possible, we will master the information domain, just as we’ve mastered the air, surface, undersea, and space domains. Accordingly, information dominance focuses on:

• Robust and agile command and control (C2) in all operating environments

• Superior knowledge of the battlespace, both the physical environment as well as threat capability, disposition, and intent

• Projecting power through the integration of kinetic and non-kinetic effects

We refer to these three elements, or pillars, as assured C2, battlespace awareness, and integrated fires. Through them, information dominance creates decision superiority, provides asymmetric advantage, and enhances the lethality of our deployed forces with non-kinetic options. By design, the pillars correspond to the Chief of Naval Operations’ three tenets:

Warfighting First : With assured C2 and enhanced battlespace awareness, commanders are able to definitively assess threats and determine their most efficient and effective courses of action using the range of kinetic weapons and non-kinetic effects available to them.

Operate Forward : Ensuring freedom of maneuver in cyberspace and the EM spectrum, and assuring the ability to direct operations and coordinate actions in contested environments is paramount for successful operations forward. Our evolving ISR assets combined with our established meteorology and oceanography capabilities contribute to battlespace awareness by delivering information on the threat and physical environments, ensuring effective Fleet operations. Reliable connectivity to the global information grid allows us to operate forward. What’s more, the global disposition of our forces contributes essential information (e.g., intelligence, weather, etc.) for dissemination to forces forward.

Be Ready : Maintaining a continuously refreshed awareness of the operating environment, including threat capabilities and intentions, allows us to be predictive, enabling our ability to prepare and coordinate well in advance of forward operations.

The critical element of the information dominance definition is integration . Blending the attributes of intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, oceanography, meteorology, networks, cyber, electronic warfare (EW), etc. allows for better planning, smarter decisions, and earlier results. Aligning the related restricted-line communities of Naval Oceanography, Information Warfare, Information Professional, Intelligence, and the Space Cadre into the Information Dominance Corps has likewise advanced our concept and capability development, and improved data and system interoperability. To borrow a cliché, in the case of Navy information dominance the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. Comprehending it, however, requires a slightly deeper dive into the three pillars.

Assured Command and Control

Assured C2 makes the issuing of orders to distributed forces and the coordination of maneuver and fires across the warfighting domains (air, land, sea, space, cyberspace, and the EMS) possible. It provides the ability to monitor the status of our forces and assess the effectiveness of our fires. It is indispensable to forward operations and securely networks our forces in all threat environments.

Practically every major system in the Fleet is “networked” to some degree, including most combat, communications, engineering, and position, navigation, and timing capabilities. Cyberspace extends that network across joint and Navy business and industrial-control systems. While this connectivity provides unprecedented speed, agility, and precision, it also opens attack vectors for determined adversaries. Therefore, assuring our C2 requires a robust, protected, resilient, and reliable information infrastructure afloat, ashore, and overseas.

Maintaining a protected transport infrastructure securely links our forces ashore and afloat in permissive, contested, and denied C2 environments. Another key component is resilient networks that withstand the barrage of attacks we see today and expect to grow. We are increasing the integration and interoperability of the sea and shore segments of our enterprise architecture through technologies such as cloud computing. Moreover, we are aligning with the DOD’s Joint Information environment and the Intelligence community’s Information-Technology enterprise frameworks to enhance interoperability and expand our ability to share and receive information from joint and national partners. Assured Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) provides for the safety of navigation, targeting, and C2 across our platforms and systems.

In his seminal 2012 Proceedings article “Imminent Domain,” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert observed that “[a] culture of electromagnetic silencing and understanding of electronic signatures will have to permeate our efforts if we are to command the EM-cyber environment.” Toward the objective of mastering the EM environment, the emerging Real-Time Spectrum-Operations system will allow us to monitor the spectrum continuously, identify conflicts, determine solutions, and differentiate between unintentional interference and intentional jamming. As current prototypes evolve, we’ll leverage this knowledge to create effects and “hide in plain sight.”

In a nutshell, the assured C2 pillar touches almost everything we do, afloat and ashore. It complements the battlespace awareness and integrated fires pillars and provides the communications we require in the most demanding conditions. We are progressing down this path with our Next-Generation enterprise network, Consolidated Afloat network enterprise system, Automated Digital network system, and Navy Multiband Terminal programs.

Battlespace Awareness

This is knowledge of the operating environment that allows the warfighter to find, penetrate, and predict the enemy’s operations by making better decisions faster. It gives us home-field advantage at the away games. It requires a superior understanding of the battlespace, to include the physical environment, cyberspace, the EM spectrum, and the threat. It also requires immediate and continuous access to essential information that updates the operational picture, facilitating prediction and decisive action. The warfighting advantage created by battlespace awareness comprises functions and payloads that are interoperable and capable of rapid upgrade relative to the threat. Battlespace awareness capabilities therefore require advanced means to sense, collect, process, exploit, and disseminate information in real time.

In the case of sensing and collecting , we leverage manned and unmanned, fixed, mobile, and distributed systems, and we coordinate across the force through a seamless communication architecture. Our manned capabilities include the EP-3 aircraft, surveillance towed-array vessels, and fixed surveillance systems. Unmanned systems, such as our MQ-4C Triton Unmanned Aircraft System, MQ-8B/C Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, and Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System, are key components because of their persistence and the reduced risk to our manned platforms and crews. Their increasing numbers and missions ultimately give us more options and greater operational flexibility. By stressing payloads over platforms, we are able to quickly leverage standard interfaces and common control systems, which also permit rapid technology upgrades, allowing us to pace the threat.

In processing , exploiting , and disseminating , our path to superior decisions starts with ensuring that data derived from our own sensors, as well as from joint and national sources, are delivered to deployed commanders when needed. This requires sophisticated tools that pull multiple sources of data with common standards into a single picture, process high volumes of information, and save thousands of man hours both afloat and ashore at Maritime Operations Centers (MOC), Maritime Intelligence Operations Centers, the Naval Oceanographic Office, and the Office of Naval Intelligence, among others.

To further develop battlespace awareness, we are expanding the Pacific Fleet’s Intelligence Federation model Navy-wide. The federation optimizes intelligence manning, collection, and communication assets. It will leverage the full range of information dominance capabilities, supplementing Navy regional expertise with the capabilities and assets of the combatant commands, combat support agencies, the intelligence community, and our allied partners. As these initiatives mature, we see the MOC becoming the essential platform for sustained battlespace awareness.

With a long-term focus on a critical physical aspect of battlespace awareness and emphasis on the Arctic, the Oceanographer of the Navy, Rear Admiral Jonathan White, led the recent update of the Navy Arctic Roadmap to ensure our readiness for potential contingencies in the polar north. Similarly, Rear Admiral White’s office is preparing for the future effects of climate change, conducting vulnerability assessments of Navy coastal infrastructure and supporting DOD strategic planning with respect to potential impacts on the global security environment.

Integrated Fires

This is the ability to project power across the kill chain. It blends non-kinetic effects with traditional kinetic weapons in order to fully exploit and, when necessary, attack adversary vulnerabilities. To be successful, it requires two mutually supporting functions:

• Disrupting/Denying/Defeating Red Fires. That is, preventing the adversary from initiating kinetic and non-kinetic operations of his own by disrupting his C4ISR and targeting ability.

• Enhancing Blue Fires, which requires dynamic collaboration across missions, domains, and with other services. This coordination permits the exploitation of the EMS as a weapon and the integration of targeting and fire-control capabilities for increased weapon range, effectiveness, and lethality. It includes the evolving electronic-warfare and offensive cyber weapons that complement our air, surface, and subsurface kinetic weapons.

We are making major investments in the Fleet’s ability to maneuver freely and fight in the EM environment. Central to this investment is the concept of EM Maneuver Warfare or EMW, which anticipates future conflicts in the battlespace created where cyber and the EM spectrum converge. Core to EMW is a complete awareness of our EM signature and others’ in real time; the ability to manipulate our EM signature to control what others can detect, maximize our ability to defeat jamming and deception, and guarantee our use of the spectrum when needed; and use of EM and cyber capabilities as non-kinetic fires to inhibit adversary C4ISR, targeting, and combat capabilities. Successful EMW requires the seamless integration of the communications, command-and-control, signals intelligence, spectrum management, electronic warfare, and cyberspace disciplines to permit our freedom of action across the spectrum.

The Information Dominance Corps

The 2010 consolidation of the OCEANO, Information Warfare, Information Professional, Intelligence, and Space Cadre officer communities—together with their enlisted, reserve, and civilian counterparts—established a professional and technically diverse corps that is rapidly coalescing into a formidable warfighting force. They aren’t the only sailors executing information dominance as a warfare discipline, but they are its principal practitioners, and they bring extremely valuable skills and specialized knowledge to the fight. Moreover, they are taking on leadership roles at the highest levels, as exemplified most recently by Admiral Mike Rogers’ confirmation as Commander, U.S. Cyber Command, and Director, National Security Agency/Central Security Service; as well as Vice Admiral Jan Tighe’s command of Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet.

Considering the exponential rate of change in technology and its corresponding impact on both our own and our adversaries’ capabilities, the unique talents and abilities within the Information Dominance Corps are increasingly critical. While we have made concerted efforts to protect and strengthen the IDC’s deep technical expertise in its traditional skill areas, we are mindful that broadening the experience of our members yields more capable information-dominance leaders. As a consequence, we’re inserting common core training relevant to the broader information-dominance mission at set points in the IDC career path. Beginning with accessions and again at mid-career and senior points, we are bringing IDC members together with their peers to expand their interdisciplinary knowledge, build personal relationships, and engender an esprit de corps unique to this mission. Additionally, we’re actively managing career paths and cross-detailing IDC leaders to broaden their experience and perspective. This mostly involves commissioned officers now, but will include senior enlisted and civilians as we define the process. The intended effect is a deliberate transformation of the IDC from a multidisciplinary group to a fully functional inter-disciplinary corps.

Information dominance is much bigger than the IDC, but the corps’ leaders are the ones who understand it best. They are fully integrated with the Fleet and are gaining recognition as warfighters in their own right. From its beginnings in 2010, the corps has quickly matured, aggressively adapting to its warfighting mission. It has greater operational relevance and more warfighting credibility than ever before. Most important, IDC members are increasingly accepted as legitimate warfighters by traditional operators.

The Information Dominance Type Command

Finally, we are establishing Navy Information Dominance Forces, an integrated type command dedicated to the discipline. With an initial operational capability of 1 October 2014, this new type command will subsume the existing Navy Cyber Forces command and integrate many of the man, train, and equip elements of Fleet Cyber Command, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the Navy Oceanography and Meteorology Command. It will initially be led by a two-star IDC flag officer who will report to the Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, right alongside the existing platform type commands.

The establishment of this command is another step in information dominance’s maturation since its 2010 birth. It’s the logical next phase in the discipline’s evolution and, as we know from our experience with the platform type commands, it’s consistent with the Navy’s time-tested approach to institutionalizing other warfare areas. As it did with the advent of naval aviation, submarines, and nuclear power, the Navy is adapting to the technology of the age and maintaining its warfighting advantage.

The type command will integrate the man, train, and equip aspects of information dominance across the Fleet, coordinating closely with the platform type commands, the numbered fleets, systems commands, and strike groups to ensure information dominance is fully considered throughout the readiness kill chain. Given the network’s universality within the larger shore-based Navy, the type command will eventually extend its man, train, and equip reach beyond the Fleet to facilitate information dominance readiness Navy-wide. It’s an enormous undertaking—one that we must embrace with vigor.

Information dominance is a reality. Senior leaders across the Navy, including the CNO as well as Admirals William Gortney and Harry Harris, consider it essential to our sustained forward presence, credible combat power, and global influence. We are at the dawn of a new era in naval warfare, and information dominance is central to our continued prominence in an increasingly asymmetric and dangerous world. It is the way of the future for Information Age warfare.

Vice Admiral Branch is Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance (N2/N6).


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