The Navy gives tactical information operations short shrift, in part because IO is relatively new. To incorporate IO as a warfighting discipline will require creating an information warfare specialty for officers and enlisted personnel.
Information operations (IO)—described in U.S. joint doctrine as the disciplines of electronic warfare, operations security, military deception, computer network operations, psychological operations, physical destruction, civil affairs, and public affairs—is in its infancy. The Navy is just forging the concept of tactical operations for an information warfare commander (IWC) as part of the composite warfare commander construct. The limited offensive information warfare (IW) tools currently available are not enough to warrant the assignment of a battle group information warfare commander, but there is a need for an IW coordinator. As the Navy wrestles with the IWC concept and experiments with staff configurations, those participating as the IWC and deputy IWC and on the battle group staffs will come up with their own ideas of IO functionality. We continue to struggle for a battle group IO standard.
With the creation of Naval Network Warfare Command, "big Navy" is making inroads into IO in the realm of computer network operations; however, the tactical Navy is struggling with IO. Fleet Information Warfare Command (FIWC) provides doctrine, IO applications, and four-member staffs to deploying battle groups but has little authority to decide how IO will be instituted. Because designated information warfare commanders have no assets to command, they do not fit the composite warfare commander construct as well as do other warfare posts such as air combat commander, sea combat commander, and air defense commander. Today's designated battle group IWCs have no ships, missiles, or planes under their command. Granted, an IWC briefly may borrow an asset from another warfare commander, such as using an EA-6B to attempt a counter-targeting effort, but examples like this are short lived and can be accomplished by the existing composite warfare commander organization. Some may argue the IWC has offensive capability in electronic attack using the EA-6B or Rubicon (a shipboard USQ146 communications jammer similar to the EA-6B's USQ113), but the EA-6B in electronic attack is almost completely under the command of the air combat commander. Depending on how Rubicon is employed, it too will fall under either the sea combat commander or air defense commander.
In recent history, battle groups deployed with the staff Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Requirements and Programs (N6) dual-hatted as the assistant chief of staff for command, control, communications, and computers and as the IWC. The N6 is poorly trained as the IWC and likely has little experience in the disciplines of IO or has command of any offensive IO assets. His staff, the battle group electronic warfare officer and FIWC augmentees, coordinates battle group information operations.
Commander, Carrier Group Three, experimented with the IWC concept during the deployment of the Carl Vinson (CVN-70) Battle Group in Operation Enduring Freedom, he had a captain (a cryptologist) assigned to his staff as the IWC. After the deployment, the commander determined that IO responsibilities at the battle group level did not warrant a captain in the position. he believed battle group tactical IO could be coordinated by an IO-savvy commander working under the battle group operations officer. Following the direction of the Chief of Naval Operations to make information warfare equal to the other areas of the composite warfare commander construct, Commander, Third Fleet, moved the IWC from the battle group commander staff and assigned the position to the commanding officer (CO) of the battle group aircraft carrier, a proven and respected unrestricted line officer. But when can a carrier CO attend to the discipline of IO? IO courses are not in aircraft carrier CO pipeline training. Even after attending IO courses, if a carrier CO has not previously served a tour in a billet related to IO he is unlikely to be well versed in its disciplines. To compensate for this lack of expertise, an IO-savvy captain or commander is assigned as his deputy to assist in running information operations. The carrier commanding officer is little more than an IWC figurehead, and his deputy is coordinating information operations.
Judging from the joint doctrine, it would seem an IWC would command many assets. In reality, this is not the case. Warship commanding officers command their electronic warfare warriors and equipment. Air wing commanders command their EA-6B Prowler squadron. Operational security is the responsibility of every commanding officer, with these activities typically delegated as a collateral duty to a relatively junior officer. Military deception has been around for as long as ships and aircraft have deployed, with warfighting commanders planning and executing the deceptions. Computer network operations for the deploying Navy consist of computer network defense and are managed by information system security personnel. The Navy does not train personnel to be psychological operations professionals; the only U.S. military branch that does is the Army, and the Army typically uses other service branch assets to accomplish theater commander objectives. The Air Force has organized IO under a specific major command with requisite squadrons and flights. When an air operations center is activated, the Air Force sends the appropriate IO squadron or flight to support the air combat commander. These units come with personnel trained in IO disciplines that support air warfare. The Navy's answer to applying IO at the tactical battle group level today lacks any such focus or structure.
If the Navy wants to incorporate IO as a warfighting discipline, it should create an IW specialty, just as it has in surface warfare, submarines, and air warfare. It also should create an enlisted IW specialty. These specialties should be primary warfare areas, not subspecialties as proposed in the Navy document presented to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, "A Strategy for Navy IO Professionals." This cadre of IO warriors should be trained from the ground up. The Navy should establish an official, funded pipeline of training with appropriate Navy-focused IO courses for an IO primary warfare specialty.
Once these IO warriors are trained, they should be assigned as IO officers to each ship and staff, just like any other billet. Depending on the size of the command, the rank of the IO officer will vary, as will the numbers and ranks of IO-trained personnel working for him. The career path of an IO warrior would emulate that of an intelligence officer in that he would have junior officer sea duty assignments, shore duty assignments at IO commands such as FIWC, and midgrade sea duty assignments on staffs followed by executive officer/commanding officer equivalent tours at IO commands. Joint tours as IO warriors and adequate time for joint professional military education also need to be part of the program. To accomplish this, the Navy should request from Congress an increase in officer and enlisted personnel to fill this new warfare area with professionals. The Navy cannot afford to move officer billets from other warfare areas to fill IO; it barely can man deploying units with properly trained personnel prior to deployment.
The Navy's way of tackling tactical information operations is ineffective. It is trying to shove IO into the composite warfare commander model and make it work with insufficiently trained or inexperienced personnel filling an organization that has no official manning document. We are making it work only through the Navy can-do attitude. Tactical IO in the Navy should be accomplished by trained, experienced IO warriors in designated IO billets, coordinating and integrating information warfare into planning and execution by traditional warfare commanders. Although today's limited offensive IW capabilities do not warrant an information warfare commander as an equal to other composite warfare commanders, it may become necessary with expanded offensive IO capabilities in the future.
Commander Houchin is an EA-6B naval flight officer who has served as battle group electronic warfare officer with Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group One, on the USS Ranger (CV-61) and Constellation (CV-64). His most recent assignment was electronic warfare officer/assistant IWC for the Carl Vinson (CVN-70) Battle Group. He is now special projects officer for Commander, Electronic Attack Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet, at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station.