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Information Ops Reduce Threats From 'Thugs, Mugs, Wackos'

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

FORT BELVOIR, Va., June 27, 2001 – The United States isn't under the constant threat from communism that the last generation dealt with. Instead, we're dealing with less traditional threats -- terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, computer network attacks.

"The threat is changing," Army Lt. Col. Dane Reves said. "It's a threat that is using a variety of sources to come at us, and it's a threat that you can't necessarily pin down in a (predictable) scenario."

The U.S. military is developing new ways to deal with these nontraditional threats. Information operations is one of those ways.

"You have to understand a lot more than how many tanks and how many infantry regiments your adversary has," said Reves, operations officer for the Land Information Warfare Activity here.

"Militaries and armies have been doing information operations since the dawn of military operations -- things like deception, trying to influence your adversary," he said. "We've been doing this for centuries. Now we've brought them all under one umbrella so they're synchronized and coordinated."

LIWA is responsible for providing information operations support to land-component commanders around the world. "The staffs that exist out there across the services don't necessarily have the IO pieces in place," Reves told the American Forces Information Service.

The activity's Army Computer Emergency Response Team oversees four regional teams -- in Germany, Hawaii, Korea, and Fort Huachuca, Ariz. -- that provide protection to Army networks.

When the military started to rely heavily on computers, no one specified a standard for personal computers or networks within the DoD, Reves explained. This opened the department up to all kinds of problems from hackers and cyberterrorists.

"Patches and fixes to vulnerabilities that may work in Washington might not work in the Pacific, for instance," Reves said. "Regional emergency response teams, working closely with their Army Signal Command Network Operations and Security Center counterparts, help us to determine what will be beneficial within their own regions and help us find 'work-arounds' for their areas."

He said for DoD to try to standardize computers and networks at this late date would be a "financial nightmare." So ACERT works to minimize threats to networks as they are set up today.

LIWA also provides field support teams to land-component commanders who request their help integrating their IO assets. "We tailor the teams based on what the commander on the ground needs," Reves said. "Does he need offensive IO capability or defensive, or both?"

The five-person teams deploy to support major Army, joint and combined exercises and contingency operations. LIWA currently has a team in Kosovo, and another recently left Sarajevo, Bosnia, Reves said.

Three vulnerability assessment teams travel to units and give their information operations systems and procedures a thorough review. The teams look for cracks in the armor, or ways outsiders cause trouble and influence units' operations tempo, either through their networks or other means. Two "blue" teams will travel to a unit and work closely with the organization to carefully root out any problems and work to find a solution.

"We'll look at how well the unit is doing with (operational security), how well they're doing physical security, computer security, network security," Reves explained. "We'll assist the command in developing policies, procedures and training to overcome any problems we find."

One "red" team is a little sneakier. The unit commander will request a visit, but not tell his staff the team is coming. "The way his people find out is, they get attacked. We'll get into their networks," Reves said. "We won't do a lot of damage, but we'll leave notice that we've been inside their network."

Reves called current nontraditional threats "thugs, mugs and wackos" who are trying to get to the U.S. military any way they can. He mentioned the USS Cole bombing that killed 17 sailors in Aden, Yemen, last October.

"That one incident had a significant impact on our military and our country as a whole," Reves said. "It made the American people say, 'Do I really want to send my sons and daughters into harm's way? What are you doing to try to protect them?'"

He described information operations as trying to get into the decision cycle of the adversary, to influence the enemy and shape the battlefield.

"Each and every day, people do information operations," Reves said. He used an example of a father in a store with his child shortly before Father's Day. "If he takes that child into a store and says, 'Boy, that looks nice. I'd sure like to have one of those,' that's an information operations campaign," he said. "He's trying to influence those around him to achieve a desired effect."

Information operations are defensive as well. At the same time IO specialists are trying to influence the enemy's decisions, they need to prevent the enemy from gaining the same type of influence over U.S. forces, he explained.

This can have serious implications on a battlefield, or before a disagreement reaches a battlefield showdown. "If, through information operations, we can prevent an adversary from conducting an attack, then that grunt on the ground never gets put into a life-threatening situation," Reves said. "He or she may never have to carry around the fact that they killed somebody.

"If we can prevent that and still achieve the overall results of what the country needs, so much better for that grunt on the ground and everyone concerned."

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