Image released by LCDR Dave Nunnally, PAO CVN 65.

Station HYPO is proud to host the following article written by LCDR Nathaniel Rightsell, an active duty Cryptologic Warfare Officer.

With the establishment of the Information Warfare Commander at sea (IWC at sea) for post command Captains, the Navy has taken a large step forward to improve critically needed information warfare functions central to Fleet operations.  Previously, these functions were handled by Deputy Information Warfare Commanders, primarily officers from the Cryptologic Warfare (CW) and Information Professional (IP) communities.   The new Information Warfare Commander role offers each of the Information Warfare Community’s component communities (Oceanography, CW, IP, and Intel communities) the opportunity to integrate those functions in a more cohesive, competent manner, and with greater representation than ever before.  Additionally, this move could enable Information Warfare to achieve parity with the other traditional warfare areas in operations.  The increasing use of, and reliance upon, information and its effects make this a desirable outcome for everyone.

In addition to IWC at sea, the Navy will soon establish the Information Warfare Development Command (IWDC).  Along with Navy Information Forces (NAVIFOR), IWDC will represent the shore based Information Warfare Community (IWC) efforts to the Fleet. Thus, there is an inherent and natural link between the IWC at sea position and the IWDC. If they are to be successful, both organizations must be able to reliably generate repeatable value in Fleet operations upon which the traditional warfare areas can rely.  The ability of the other warfare areas to consistently trust IWC value and impact in operations is fundamental to proper alignment and use of information capabilities, particularly in Fleet operations.

While the Oceanography, CW, IP, and Intel communities are all part of the IWC, each remains separate, and for good reason.  This does, however, raise challenges associated with ensuring consistent, viable product is provided to the Fleet via IWC at sea.  Each community maintains different educational and experiential desires for its officers as they progress through the ranks.  While this certainly makes sense for specific communities, the variances introduce discrepancies (from one officer to the next) in the IWC as a collective, and eventually into the IWC at sea position.  A quick look at the community briefs and convening orders for each community within the IWC bears this out.  How, then, does the IWC go about resolving the skill, educational, and experiential differences its communities mechanically create with a view to providing the Navy a dependable IWC at sea product?  Surely the IWC cannot expect disparate backgrounds and experiences to generate a repeatable result with any degree of fidelity.

Perhaps the answer can be found looking outside the IWC for a moment.  The unrestricted line communities (URL) communities produce differently skilled officers, yet all have a common operational background.  Admittedly, this is easier for them.  Their operations are, generally, at sea and platform based.  Still, the example is relevant.  Determining a common operational background for IWC officers (both within the IWC and in the Fleet) would generate common understanding over time.  This is not to say the IWC simply should make every billet common, but rather that the IWC should come together in an operationally practical way and subordinate its communities in support of IWDC and IWC at sea.  For the effort to be truly successful, the IWC must build to the IWDC and IWC at sea with all of its communities pulling in the same direction and for the same purpose (unity of mission).  The junior officer operational tours and disassociated sea tours build the common purpose which enables the vastly different aviation and surface warfare communities to produce sufficiently reliable results for specific positions.  Similarly, the IWC could benefit much more from cross detailing at a far lower level and in higher frequency than currently. Certainly, future IWC at sea officers stand to benefit more than the current approach.

Given the smaller presence of the IWC in Fleet operations, relative to the URL communities and to IWC efforts elsewhere, wholesale change should not be the goal.  IWC should not trade away staples of what it does now in chase of what should be done.  Yet, some change is obviously required.  Part of this change should include ensuring an even address of Information Warfare and information related efforts across the Fleet. Correspondingly, NAVIFOR should consider providing the same basic IWC lines of operation and IWC staff composition to all deploying groups.  As the electromagnetic and information environments impact all ships equally, the readiness level of every ship and group should probably also be equal.  It is counterproductive to send one group on deployment with a LT and three other Sailors and the next group out with a CAPT and 7-11 other Sailors.  The IWDC and IWC at sea effort must be balanced across all units, and while it isn’t entirely up to the IWC alone, certainly the IWC has a role.  If the IWC does not “own” the billets on those staffs or the ability to obtain them (a debatable topic), it “owns” the content and should make such recommendations to SURFOR/AIRFOR.  IWC should similarly feel empowered to provide recommendations on resources, mission set up, and other non-IWC operations which impact its own (general advocacy).

Another possible option to provide enhance dependability of IWC at sea functions is to realign communities.  This topic briefly appeared in a couple blogs several months ago, but has never really been raised for serious consideration.  It may be worth doing so now.  The value in realigning certain functions between communities could potentially provide simplicity and clarity in the IWC approach to its broader effort.  There is a significant amount of overlap between Intel and CW, for example, especially in Fleet operations and on staffs.  Similarly, IP and CW have some overlap in the cyber realm.  The argument is, as long as no single community is responsible for (and building toward) IWC at sea functions, those functions will be secondary in importance to the communities.  Realigning functions of the communities within the IWC to tap one community which provides the IWC at sea position might be easier than constantly wrangling the four communities together to meet the need.  Realignment could also offer the opportunity to relieve friction between community desires and officer desires, a friction which can be attributed to the large amounts of change over the past decade for the IWC.  Similar to URL, the IWC at sea role is a generalist role likely best accommodated by someone interested in broader impact.  IWC could shape a particular community or two in that fashion, while retaining its stable of technical depth outside the Fleet in its other communities.  Or, could IWC create a separate designator beginning at LT which would culminate in IWC at sea?  Lieutenants through Commander of all designators could apply and, if approved, work those jobs which best prepare her/him for eventual assignment as IWC at sea.  Each IW community could easily identify which of their jobs holds significant value for future IWC at sea officers.  Either of these two options demonstrates dedication to the Navy’s efforts to improve Information Warfare and also generates a specific IWDC/IWC at sea workforce. This approach is also more synonymous with the URL model and offers continual refinement of the product which doesn’t require multiple Flag officers, OPNAV, and four communities to arrive at consensus.

The IDWC and IWC at sea position are foundational changes for how the IWC will represent itself to, and operate within, the Fleet.  No matter the good work outside Fleet concentration areas in METOC, CW, IP, or Intel commands, the IDWC and IWC at sea position are what the IWC has to offer the Fleet, at least in the eyes of the rest of the Navy. The Navy will base its trust in the IWC based on what NAVIFOR, IWDC, and IWC at sea deliver.  Indeed, it is difficult to conceptualize a more valuable IWC tour from the Navy perspective than IWC at sea.  Hopefully, the IWC senior leadership will all agree and it will become a discriminator for Flag officer selection.  It is important for all the communities in the IWC to engage in shaping both the IWDC and the IWC at sea position.  By being proactive and innovative, they are able to better support the Fleet, their own diverse goals, and those of their Sailors.