Training ranges help boost cyber warfare readiness

DOD Information Assurance Range and Marine Corps Cyber Range offer realistic settings

Training ranges for testing and evaluating the latest in military technology are nothing new, but as the fight increasingly goes virtual, new digital ranges are bridging the gap between kinetic and nonkinetic warfare preparation.

The Defense Department Information Assurance Range and Marine Corps Cyber Range are two examples of how the military is training troops to operate in cyberspace just as they do in air and space, on land and at sea.

“This is not just a lab or virtual environment,” Jeffrey Combs, Marine Corps program manager for DOD IA Range, said today at the AFCEA West 2011 conference in San Diego. “If we’re going to test, train and evaluate, we need to do it in a realistic environment.”

The DOD IA range is supported by the Defense Information Systems Agency’s global backbone, which provides the overarching Tier 1 environment. Each service then has its own Tier 2 component, Combs said.

The digital ranges allow persistent, continuously maintained capabilities and an operationally realistic environment, Combs said. The testing and evaluation opportunity provides for the development of tactics, techniques and procedures and automated capabilities before fielding.

The broader DOD IA range also allows access to enterprisewide tools and services offered by DISA.

Demonstrations and evaluations are already under way, Combs said, including a proof-of-concept exercise in October 2009 and again in December 2010 and January 2011 to validate and verify capabilities.

Among planned future events are advanced host-based security system training, customer support exercises and joint cyber exercise support to combatant commands, Combs said, adding that the DOD IA program is also undergoing infrastructure upgrades.

Combs outlined a timeline for 2011 that he characterized as aggressive, including funding, approval and kickoff by March, range configuration by May, and launching initial operations training by September and exercises by November.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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