House subcommittee wants more cyber in the Pacific

The House is putting forth language to provide greater incorporation of cyber into operational planning in the Pacific theater, as well as countering of information operations.

Language in the House Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee’s portion of the National Defense Authorization Act calls for the Secretary of Defense to “increase inclusion of regional cyber planning within larger United States joint planning exercise in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region; enhance joint, regional, and combined information operations and strategic communication strategies to counter Chinese and North Korean information warfare, malign influence, and propaganda activities; and identify potential areas of cybersecurity collaboration and partnership capabilities with Asian allies and partners of the United States.”

The language cites Adm. Harry Harris, commander of Pacific Command, describing increased cyber capability and nefarious activity from China, North Korea and Russia.

“In order to fully leverage the cyber domain, PACOM requires an enduring theater cyber capability able to provide cyber planning, integration, synchronization and direction of cyber forces,” it quoted Harris as saying.

Cyber Command provides a total of 27 combat mission teams to combatant commands for this very purpose – supporting command commanders by generating integrated cyberspace effects in support of operational plans and contingency operations.

“I think from the [combatant commands], what I hear is they are not seeing something that helps them in their campaign and because of that they’re a little bit distrustful of their being able to depend on what they ask for,” Bill Leigher, director of government cyber solutions at Raytheon, told Fifth Domain in a recent interview. “They don’t have control over it, it’s not expressed in a way that makes sense for a plan that they already have on the books.”

“The bigger issue is having capabilities that combatant commanders understand, understand where they fit into their campaigns and why they need the legal definition of a weapon and how are you going to treat them like so,” he added.

Adm. Michael Rogers, has referenced coordination in the Pacific theater in recent congressional testimony, but has provided few details as to their scope.

Additionally, Rogers has also testified that Cyber Command does not do traditional information operations, noting this is not currently within their defined set of responsibilities, per se, only offering that the operations against the Islamic State group to combat their online messaging might fall into this bucket. This is something more addressed by the individual service cyber components.

The Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee also put forth several other cyber-related initiatives such as modifications to quarterly congressional cyber briefings to include updates in each geographic and functional commands describing operations carried out by them, hostile cyber activity directed at said commands, an overview of authorities and legal issues applicable to operations and an outline of interagency activities that relate to operations.

It also includes language released earlier this month to requiring congressional notice of sensitive military cyber operations and cyber weapons.

The Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee will hold it’s markup hearing of the language June 21.