Navy's cyber unit scans horizon for new challenges
Fleet Cyber Command takes stock of situational awareness capabilities, reviews operational structure
In a little more than a year, the Navy's Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet has grown from an operations center with only two visualization centers to a hub of situational awareness for the military service.
The Navy activated the Fleet Cyber Command in January 2010 as the service's segment of the joint Cyber Command, and it simultaneously recommissioned the 10th Fleet to handle the Navy's cyber operations worldwide. A year into its existence, the Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet is looking toward its future, beginning with a full assessment of its structure and operations, according to its commander, Vice Adm. Bernard "Barry" McCullough.
“A year ago when we started, we had very little situational awareness of the network, and our ability to identify our command and control networks was challenged,” McCullough said. “As we’ve evolved, we’re starting to review whether our organization is 100 percent right or whether we need to restructure along the lines of operation.”
As commander of the Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet, McCullough can establish, direct and execute Navy cyberspace operations around the world. After its creation, the unit's first goal was to establish situational awareness for Navy networks, McCullough said. Early in its existence, the command went through a major exercise at Pacific Command to determine what data the Navy needed to visualize the status of its networks and assets and how to clearly display that information, he said.
“Now we have network defense situational awareness, health of transport situational awareness, force geolocation situational awareness and collection situational awareness," McCullough said. "We have built all of that into our current operational picture.”
Because the Navy strives for information dominance over its adversaries, the ability to visualize data for quick analysis is vital to cyberspace operations, said Vice Adm. William Leigher, deputy commander of the Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet.
“It’s not that we have too much information — we need a different way of looking at the information available to us,” Leigher said earlier this year. “We need to broaden the role of information and deepen our understanding. And we need experience operating in contested environments; we need training.”
In an effort to better harness information for improved command and control, the Navy’s cyber unit is focusing on regional aspects of the global network, McCullough said. To do so, the 10th Fleet is developing regional network operations and subordinate security commands, he said.
Training and education also are top priorities now that the Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet has established situational awareness, McCullough said. To hone cyber skills, the Navy will start broad training, followed by more narrow education at a graduate level. That effort will begin this summer with a new training program that will incorporate student feedback.
“One concern is how to do servicewide training for the entire Navy, including contractors,” McCullough said. “We want to make sure we’ve got total service training at the right level.”
A year after its initial launch, the Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet is shifting focus to other tasks while still working on a situational awareness picture that is constantly evolving. Some of those tasks include taking on the ever-present network security challenge, getting the right operational alignment in place and dealing with the cultural issues inherent to all major operational changes, McCullough said.
He added that so far, he’s encouraged by the progress made since the command’s creation last year.
“We’ve come a long way,” McCullough said. "We have achieved what we set out to achieve a year ago. Now the biggest challenge is to maintain the momentum and keep evolving.”
Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.