BG McGee frames cyberspace as significant, rapidly changing component of operations

Brig. Gen. J.P. McGee, the deputy commander of U.S. Army Cyber Command, talks about the cyber and electromagnetic capabilities of Army units during the Maneuver Warfighter Conference.

Story by Bryan Gatchell, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs
Photos by Markeith Horace, Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning Public Affairs

FORT BENNING, Ga. (Jan. 16, 2018) – The deputy commanding general (Operations) of the U.S. Army Cyber Command talked about the cyber and electromagnetic spectrum capabilities of the brigade combat team and lower echelons during the Maneuver Warfighter Conference at Fort Benning, Georgia, Jan. 10.

Brig. Gen. J.P. McGee talked about the rapidly changing nature of the cyberspace as it relates to the battlefield and to the U.S. military

The conference, held annually at the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, focused on cross-domain maneuver, which incorporates the cohesive use of cyberspace capabilities within four other domains – land, maritime, air and space.

“Cyberspace and electromagnetic activities, those are the commander’s business,” said McGee. “And just like any other domain, we need to learn how to use it effectively in today’s environment because it is already part of the environment.”

Echoing previous speakers at the conference, including futurist P.W. Singer, McGee cited the rapidity of technological change taking place due to three prominent factors: exponential increase in computer processing power, the near ubiquity of network access across the globe and the sophistication of software.

“The operating environment that you all will operate for the rest of your time in the military is one that is defined, at least in part, by exceptionally fast changes in the technological environment,” said McGee. “What you know today [about the cyberspace domain] is helpful, maybe informative, but it will probably be very different in two or three years.”

One of the challenges McGee pointed out was that there is as yet no visual language with which to communicate about this recently developed domain.

“We still need to work on how we visualize this domain so we can make it understandable by commanders at every level,” he said.

Despite the challenges, McGee was optimistic about the Army’s ability to take on new skillsets as new technologies came to fruition.

McGee

“What the Army has been able to do effectively with other technological advances – whether that’s aviation or whether that’s artillery – is we’ve been able to train a group of people, get them highly specialized, and then understand how they fold that technology into a maneuver commander’s scheme of maneuver, concept of operations, to employ it maximally effectively.

“I don’t expect maneuver leaders to become experts in this,” continued McGee, “but you need to understand how you employ that, and you need to have a crew of trusted professionals within your staff who are accessible who can advise you on how to do this successfully.”

During his portion of the conference, McGee emphasized a series of points he’s learned in his position at Cyber Command: among those points was that defense of the network is the number one priority, that much of the cyber expertise is in the civilian sector and that cyber must be integrated with the greater intelligence community and with other joint cyber forces.

“You need to have all these different skillsets that come together to provide effective cyber operations,” said McGee on the last point.

Before answering questions, McGee wrapped up his portion by hitting some key points

“You’ve got to own the domain,” said McGee. “It’s traditional military operations on non-traditional terrain.

“Commanders need to understand the balance between providing security and providing a service that you need to have,” he continued. “Be very, very cautious in an operational environment what your Soldiers are using in terms of cellphones and any electronic devices.”

McGee finished the briefing by saying there was a place for maneuver leaders in the cyber force, especially to synchronize at the operational level.


To see photos from Day One of the Maneuver Warfighter Conference, visit www.fortbenningphotos.com/Maneuver-Center/MCoE-Events/Conferences/Annual-Maneuver-Conference/Maneuver-Warfighter-Conference/Maneuver-Warfighter-Conference-Day-Two.

For more Maneuver Warfighter Conference stories, visit https://benningnews.org/tag/manwarcon.

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