DOD Must Train for ‘Degraded’ Environments, Official Says


By Jim Garamone

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.”


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