Preparing for the All-Domain Battlefield

Preparing for the All-Domain Battlefield

The global domain of cyberspace connects the four physical domains (land, air, maritime, space)within the folds of the information environment.  It bridges the physical world with the cognitive one – where the constructs of the human brain interact with the real world.  This “operational environment” is the composite of these domains where conditions, circumstances, and influences affect the employment of capabilities and decision-making of military forces.  As shown in the holistic view of the Operational Environment from Joint Publication 5-0, cyberspace and the information environment connect every aspect of the environment, directly or indirectly. The military heavily relies upon this interconnectivity to communicate, conduct operations, and to meet their objectives.  However, while the cyber domain is one of our greatest enablers, it also provides opportunities for exploitation.

Despite being man-made, cyberspace and most of the information environment is a domain that human beings cannot sense through our natural abilities; therefore, we rely upon technical or electronic devices to interpret these complex, often enigmatic facets for us.  Behind this facade, information flows by the physics of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS), with electrons moving through fiber at the speed of light or through the natural world on differing wavebands.  Our societies rely upon this information flow, but few care about where it is stored, how it is computed, or the method it is transmitted.  We just want it to work when we request information (e.g., our entertainment).  Society relies upon the trust we give our devices, hoping the information displayed is accurate, and this trust is often the gap in our armor that adversaries exploit to disrupt operations and lives. With the high level of trust given to information from the Department of Defense (DoD) “trusted information services,” malicious actions in the cyberspace domain can be highly detrimental to military operations.

On the future battlefield, there will be a constant struggle to gain superiority in the EMS with electronic attacks and protection measures saturating the environment.  Adding to this chaos will be the vast number of devices populating the domains, emitting across this contested spectrum.  In this unruly landscape, reduction in “blue-on-blue” electromagnetic interference is critical while simultaneously mitigating adversaries’ attempts to further disrupt and deny this environment. However, this EMS conflict is at the forefront of the battle.  Moving within the dark confines of cyberspace—before, during, and after the battle–are the cyber and information warriors instilling mistrust, deception, and sometimes destruction within adversary networks and systems while defending their own. 

These actions create the constant companions of complexity and unfamiliarity into the environment, further increasing the cognitive load this congested, contested environment demands of its practitioners. To truly conduct effective all-domain operations, the larger community needs a common, realistic understanding of the environment and the ability to implement creative training and educational solutions.  Current training solutions and environments are not adequate to address these challenges; therefore, new venues, methodologies, and opportunities are required to gain dominance in the operational environment.

Supporting the significant cognitive flexibility and innovation of thought required to seamlessly interconnect the domains of this battlefield will require a different simulated environment; an electronic world where teams can test new ideas, challenge processes and preconceived notions and take risks knowingly and for the right reasons.  Most importantly, it provides a venue to establish different tactics, techniques, and procedures for operating in a constantly fluctuating EMS, fraught with deception, misinformation, and outright attacks on perception. Our human perception is a very important aspect of this new domain.  How do you know what you are seeing is true or not?  What do you have to do to sustain trust in the information flow? The answers to those questions will have to mirror the revolutionary changes in the new joint all-domain command and control (C2) programs that will drive how humans sense and understand an all-domain battlefield.

Underpinning our C2 systems are the Positioning, Navigation, and Timing (PNT) assets that encircle the planet.  All weapon systems, platforms, sensors, and communication networks rely upon the accuracy of this globally available information network to function and to synchronize operations.  Anticipating that this will be a contested environment, the DoD and the services are working on solutions to assure or create resilient PNT solutions that provide alternatives to traditional methods of C2, to include the networks that connect them.  A vital component of these systems, which needs to be better understood, is the data that supports and enables C2 and where it is stored, transported, and how its integrity is maintained.  These alternateC2 systems, coupled with a contested EMS, will amplify the mentally tough and rigorous environment future practitioners will face.  Therefore, simulations need to accurately replicateC2assets and networks for training, experimentation, and testing events—each with their own standards and fidelity requirements. With the right cognitive and technical ecosystem, the most important integrator—the human warrior—can be prepared for the future operational environment.

Revolutionizing these simulations will require several major steps.  The first step is replicating the tactical and enterprise networks in sufficient fidelity so owners can measure and investigate network functionality in different conditions—all within real-time and utilizing the same tools they will use on the battlefield.  The second step is integrating high-fidelity engineering models into a much lower fidelity combat simulation.  Understanding the complexities of this battlefield requires accurate replication that these models can produce, accounting for different aspects of the terrain and atmosphere, to include the operational limits of the equipment.  Additionally, practitioners will have to understand the technical aspects of the battlefield and how to properly synchronize an operation within the context of their granted authorities and capabilities.  Given hundreds of mission repetitions within a constantly changing and complex environment, this understanding of the battlefield is possible.  An enhanced simulated environment provides the conditions to think creatively and react thoughtfully to complexity, unfamiliarity, deception, and confusion.  It sets the conditions for all-domain warriors to practice mission assurance and maintain over-match on the all-domain battlefield, regardless of conditions.

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