We are behind.  The U.S. military requires a cultural change to reconcile institutional aversion toward non-lethal information warfare. To aggressively shape, influence, control, and manipulate information, change is needed in U.S. military attitudes toward information warfare.  [We have a choice.] This can be realized through better training and education, and deliberate integration of information operations across the military services during planning and operations[1] – and the College of Maritime Operational Warfare can help deliver this outcome.  

Status Check

In Russia

In 2008, Russia led its invasion of Georgia with months of offensive cyber operations and information warfare to shape the operational environment.  Russia attacked news sites, critical infrastructure, government websites, information networks, among others.  The physical invasion itself was also initiated by aggressive offensive cyberspace operations and information warfare campaign.  Ten years later, Russia continues to demonstrate its mastery in the integration of cyber capabilities and information warfare through all phases and stages of its military planning and capabilities as evidenced by its successful invasion and occupation of Ukraine.

Meanwhile the United States continues to argue and debate policy, authorities and responsibilities while ceding battlespace to our competitors.

We are behind.

In China

“In 2003, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Central Committee and the Central Military Commission (CMC) approved the concept of ‘Three Warfares’ a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) information warfare concept aimed at preconditioning key areas of competition in its favor.  [Where:]

  • Psychological Warfare seeks to undermine an enemy’s ability to conduct combat operations through operations aimed at deterring, shocking, and demoralizing enemy military personnel and supporting civilian populations.
  • Media Warfare is aimed at influencing domestic and international public opinion to build support for China’s military actions and dissuade an adversary from pursuing actions contrary to China’s interests.
  • Legal Warfare uses international and domestic law to claim the legal high ground or assert Chinese interests. It can be employed to hamstring an adversary’s operational freedom and shape the operational space. Legal warfare is also intended to build international support and manage possible political repercussions of China’s military actions.

The United States remains committed to winning the Cold War.

Since then, information warfare has assumed a central role in Chinese military writings over the past decade.”[2]  Information warfare also “greatly emphasizes the concept of ‘gaining mastery by striking first.’ ” [3] “In fact, some Chinese writings suggest that successful information operations require striking first electronically or kinetically.”[2]

Meanwhile, the United States finally made US Cyber Command a Combatant Command in 2018.

We are behind.


Other threats such as Iran, North Korea and other criminal and violent extremist organizations act boldly with impunity since they have achieved parity with the United States and the West writ large in cyberspace and information warfare.

Meanwhile, the United States remains committed to winning the Cold War, glacially accepting information as a competitive space and warfighting domain, and remaining more enamored with technology rather than defining any cohesive and comprehensive long term strategy for the nation.

We are behind.

The Nature of Modern Warfare

Given the capability and evolving nature of warfare, the US Navy’s operational fleets need to be educated, trained, and prepared to infuse information warfare into all of their global plans, operations and exercises across the Competition-Conflict Spectrum.

The competition-Conflict-Spectrum for the Military Dimension of Power. Navy concepts and capabilities should improve our ability to respond to an adversary across the spectrum from day to day operations, to escalation, to lethal combat. – A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, Version 2.0 [4]


It is imperative that all US Navy education and training commands get out ahead of where students and commands are now to educate and train all students how to fight, win and Dominate in the future.  Maritime Information Warfare (IW) thinking must be developed in our commanders, staffs and planners to be second nature, inherent in everything we do and ingrained now.  Dominance is about end states.  It is not about having a collection of advantages. [5] The means are important, but the means are not the focus of dominance. Dominance is about focusing on what you want to achieve, doing what it takes to achieve it and maintaining the ability to act when and in a manner in which you decide.[6] 

Dominance is about end states.  It is not about having a collection of advantages.  The means are important, but the means are not the focus of dominance.

The Basics: Information Operations, Function, and Environment

The Information Related Capabilities

The first step is understanding that IO (Information Operations) is not a capability in and of itself but the integration of the information related capabilities to achieve decisive effects in the battlespace.

The “Secretary of Defense now characterizes IO as the integrated employment, during military operations, of IRCs [Information Related Capabilities] in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.[7]

The United States recently released Change 1 to its Joint Publication 3-0 and describes information as a joint function.  It also updated how it defines the information environment in stating that cyberspace is a global domain within the information environment.

“The information function encompasses the management and application of information and its deliberate integration with other joint functions to change or maintain perceptions, attitudes, and other elements that drive desired behaviors and to support human and automated decision making.”

The information environment.  Information is pervasive throughout the OE [Operating Environment]. To operate effectively requires understanding the interrelationship of the informational, physical, and human aspects that are shared by the OE and the information environment. Informational aspects reflect the way individuals, information systems, and groups communicate and exchange information. . . Finally, human aspects frame why relevant actors perceive a situation in a particular way.” [4]

At the service level, in 2016, the Chief of Naval Operations published “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority Version 1.0.”  While Design 2.0 was released in December 2018, Design 2.0 states the Lines of Effort (LOE) remain valid and relevant. [8]  Within the “Strengthen Naval Power At and From Sea” LOE, the CNO directs:

  • Combat at sea must address “blue-water” scenarios far from land and power projection ashore in a highly “informationalized” and contested environment.
  • Further advance and ingrain information warfare.
  • Expand the Electromagnetic Maneuver Warfare concept to encompass all of information warfare, to include space and cyberspace. [9]

Information related capabilities are means to influence a target audience. The behavior of individuals and groups, as human social entities, are principally governed by rules, norms, and beliefs, while the behaviors of systems principally reside within the physical and informational dimensions and are governed only by rules.[9]  Thus, if we want to start shaping the rules, norms and behaviors of our adversaries, it won’t be through a continuous commitment to a Cold War paradigm of billion dollar platform development.  To maintain maritime superiority, naval planners must understanding how to effectively employ the full range of IRCs in coordination with joint military operations and maritime IW must be inherent in every naval plan, operation, and exercise at every level of warfare (strategic, operational, and tactical).

Nothing New Under the Sun

It doesn’t take much to note that the United States doesn’t own the monopoly on learning from history.

(Left) Japan’s Island Defenses, 1941.[10] (Right) China’s Second Island Chain Strategy.[11]

If you look at the reach of modern reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) technologies and the range of the missiles targeted by these technologies, then in fact you could imagine a Chinese A2/AD [Anti Access/Area Denial] zone extending all the way out to or beyond the second island chain.[12] The United States can either consider replicating a power projection, attrition strategy vis-à-vis World War Two or the United States can embrace that the best method to defeat A2AD is information warfare.  For “within the context of this near-future operating environment, current maritime Information Warfare (IW) capabilities, such as those contributing to Signals Intelligent (SIGINT), Electromagnetic Maneuver Warfare (EMW), Electronic Warfare (EW), and communications, do not afford sufficient operational agility or adaptability to gain advantage over or exploit the weaknesses of adversaries.”[13]

To defeat an adversary’s A2AD, it will require the full of integration of the IRCs to include but not limited to:  Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations, Cyberspace Operations, Deception, Space Operations, Operations Security, Special Technical Operations.  This requirement should not be left to a planning cell behind the green door but the integration and employment of IRCs needs to become fleet business.  It doesn’t matter what the collective capability of our ships, planes and missiles are if we don’t win in the information domain, particularly in the opening salvo of the next major conflict. Joint and maritime planning at the operational level of warfare must connect actions in Phase 0, I, and II now by implementing IRCs across the information environment to shape the environment for future decisive actions. We must invest in the technology, and train and rehearse consistently from major exercises to individual ship and unit actions if we want to Dominate.

You have a choice.

What is the Problem?

There remains significant institutional resistance because for so many years information operations was that thing that goes on “behind the green door.”  General William “Billy” Mitchell, considered the father of the United States Air Force, would have recognized this resistance and institutional inertia from the Navy just as he experienced in the post-World War One era when he advocated for the use of airpower versus battleships and the need to develop floating air bases to defend the nation:

“So many erroneous doctrines have been enunciated about aviation by the older services that see in the development of air power the curtailment of their ancient prerogatives, privileges and authority that we consider it time to challenge these proceedings and to make our views known.”[14]

The cacophony of resistance to information warfare comes from the expected locations and they are classically aligned with the 19thCentury German philosopher Arthur Scholpenhauer.

“All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as self-evident.”
– Scholpenhauer

You will hear the first two truth stages from Scholpenhauer in comments and opposition such as:  it’s hard; it’s not my job; it is not in doctrine; the threat it may pose to other community resources; lack of proper authorities and the different planning levels; access; the false belief that we know how to do it because “we did it in the 80s” or even more wrongly – we are already doing it.  But all that noise is only masking a fear of the unknown and a threat to currency and relevance. It is eerily similar to the response the Navy gave Billy Mitchell, in that information warfare is a threat to the ancient prerogatives, privileges and authorities.

We are behind.

Lots of Words.  Little Action.

The recently released A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority Version 2.0 directs the Navy to “expand the competitive space. . . to impose cost on our adversaries across the competition-conflict spectrum.”[4]  Information warfare needs to be implemented in every scenario, in every exercise, in every wargame, in every operation to best prepare our staffs at the operational level of warfare to compete in the competition-conflict spectrum from day-to-day operations through escalation to total war.

While there are slowly developing changes across the Navy, we cannot expect the one IW commander on a CSG staff who still lacks a resourced staff, the new Information Warfare community, or Naval Information Warfare Development Center to self-advocate in a manner that makes institutional change and shakes the old guard. We need more voices from different communities, up and down the rank structure, advocating for the inclusion of IW in everything we do.

You have a choice.

The College of Maritime Operational Warfare (CMOW) – Part of the Solution

The College of Maritime Operational Warfare is making a choice to be a part of the solution.  It is one location that can significantly move the needle, directly support the CNO’s guidance and make an institutional impact.  The College of Maritime Operational Warfare is perfectly positioned, right now, to provide education and training to inform fleet commanders, staff and planners how to deliberately integrate information operations into exercises, planning and operations.

The College of Maritime Operational Warfare aims “to improve the capability of Navy commanders to lead maritime, joint, and multinational forces as well as improve the capability of Navy staff members to plan, execute, and assess and to function cohesively as a Maritime Operations Center (MOC). The faculty is focused on supporting combat readiness at the operational level of warfare.”[15]

The CMOW Curriculum

CMOW currently offers the following courses:

  • Maritime Staff Operators Course (MSOC)
  • Maritime Operational Planners Course (MOPC)
  • Executive Level Operational Level of Warfare Course (ELOC)
  • Combined Force Maritime Component Commander Course (CFMCC)
  • Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Course (JFMCC)

The College of Maritime Operational Warfare is perfectly positioned to inform Fleet Commanders, staff and planners how to deliberately integrate information operations into exercises, planning and operations.

There currently exists a number of efforts within CMOW to help the Navy begin to embrace Information Warfare.  The establishment of the Electro-magnetic Maneuver Warfare and Cyber Warfare and Fires Cross Functional Teams which are both designed at educating staff and faculty to maintain currency in these areas.  The most recent advancement is the establishment of the Rochefort Group. “The Rochefort Group ingrains maritime information warfighting into education and fleet engagement in order to increase combat readiness and lethality at the operational level of war and across all warfighting domains.[16]

Servicing the Fleet

In accordance with the CNO’s Design Version One and Two, in direct support to the fleet commands, CMOW’s course scaffolding, from MSOC through JFMCC, should have maritime Information Warfare fully integrated into the curriculum and incorporated into every scenario.  This approach would educate and train all students (commanders, staff and planners) from all communities enroute to a fleet command headquarters how to visualize the information battlespace and implement IRCs into every plan and exercise. This could be a transcendent opportunity for the Navy to perform at its theoretical limits[17] in this domain and in preparation for the next fight.

Certainly it will take time and effort for the curriculum directors in CMOW to make the adjustments. The Rochefort Group will need to directly support the training of the faculty, and assist with infusing IW into the curriculum and all the scenarios.  It may even require increased structure for the Rochefort Group or brining on reservists for an extended period of time to support curriculum and scenario development.  It may require direct support from the IW community whether that is in TAD support or manpower assignments.  It will take time to train the white cell to replicate the actions and responses in the information environment, among many other considerations.  But while hard, we would be prudent to recall the words of Admiral Nimitz writing to the President about how the Rainbow Plans were wargamed at the Naval War College during the interwar period when he stated:

The war with Japan had been enacted in the game rooms at the War College by so many people and in so many different ways that nothing that happened during the war was a surprise—absolutely nothing except the kamikaze tactics toward the end of the war.”[18]

A Curriculum that Evolves with the Threat

Consider the currency we could build in our fleet staffs if some of the CMOW scenarios were based on real world problem sets that included friendly and adversary information warfare capabilities.  If in our scenarios we have the ability to send the United States to war, then we have the ability to train the students and shape the scenarios to move past classic behind the green door impediments without tripping classifications or STO/SAP access limitations.  Perhaps then, as a service, we might honor the lessons learned by Admiral Nimitz and not be surprised by a future enemy.

The Time is Now.

It has already arrived.

CMOW is perfectly positioned to help move the Navy past Scholpenhauer’s second truth and help the service arrive at a self-evident truth.  Navy education and training commands writ large would be prudent to consider the same. Just because it is hard, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.  Otherwise, we can all stay in our comfort zones, make minor adjustments on the margins, and my generation of Cold War warriors can continue to thump our chests, celebrate that we “won” the Cold War, complain about having to change our passwords all the time and write war plans hoping that our adversaries will come out and fight Halsey in the Leyte Gulf.

“If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more.”
– General Eric Shinseki[19]

Dare I Say…

As the United States struggles to compete in a potential scenario that extends to the second island chain, the Chinese are already looking beyond.  “In January 2013, political commissar of the Liaoning, Mei Wen, stated that ‘the so-called first island chain and second island chain should not be chains to bind up development of the Chinese Navy, but navigation marks for the Chinese Navy to sail into the vast oceans.’”[20]

We are behind.

N. Brunetti-Lihach, “Information Warfare Past, Present, and Future,” Real Clear Defense, 14-Nov-2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.realcleardefense.com/articles/2018/11/14/information_warfare_past_present_and_future_113955.html. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
T. A. Walton, “China’s Three Warfares,” Delex Systems, Inc., 18-Jan-2012. [Online]. Available: http://www.delex.com/data/files/Three%20Warfares.pdf. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
R. Cliff, M. Burles, M. S. Chase, D. Eaton, and K. L. Pollpeter, “Entering the Dragon’s Lair,” rand.org, 2007. [Online]. Available: https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2007/RAND_MG524.pdf. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
“A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, Version 2.0,” Navy.mil, Dec-2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.navy.mil/navydata/people/cno/Richardson/Resource/Design_2.0.pdf. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
J. F. Davis, “General Dominance Theory and Applications to Information Dominance: A Paradigm for Success in War,” CyberDominance.com, 03-Oct-2017. [Online]. Available: https://www.cyberdominance.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/General-Dominance-Theory-and-Information-Dominance-2nd-Edition-03OCT2017.pdf. [Accessed: 25-Jan-2019]
J. F. Davis, “Yes, You Do Want to Dominate Others: the Battle of Dominance vs Superiority,” CyberDominance.com, 15-Dec-2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.cyberdominance.com/dominance/yes-you-do-want-to-dominate-others-the-battle-of-dominance-vs-superiority/. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
“Joint Publication 3-13, Information Operations 27 November 2012 Incorporating Change 1,” Joint Chiefs of Staff, 20-Nov-2014. [Online]. Available: http://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_13.pdf. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
“Joint Publication, Joint Operations 3-0, Incorporating Change 1,” Joint Chiefs of Staff, 22-Oct-2018. [Online]. Available: http://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_0ch1.pdf?ver=2018-10-24-154535-183. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
“A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, Version 1.0,” Navy.mil, Jan-2016. [Online]. Available: https://www.navy.mil/cno/docs/cno_stg.pdf. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
StMA, “China’s new map includes ‘Second National Territory’ of oceans,” Consortium of Defense Analysts, 11-Jul-2014. [Online]. Available: https://cofda.wordpress.com/tag/second-island-chain. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
“History Maps: Wall Maps of Events throughout History,” The Map Shop, 24-Jan-2019. [Online]. Available: http://www.mapshop.com/classroom/HISTORY/US/World-War-II-Pacific.asp. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
“China’s anti-access area-denial and US Pacific power,” The Naval Institute, 26-May-2017. [Online]. Available: https://navalinstitute.com.au/chinas-anti-access-area-denial-and-us-pacific-power. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
D. Dodge, “For Sea Control, First Control the Electromagnetic Spectrum,” Center for International Maritime Security, 11-Sep-2018. [Online]. Available: http://cimsec.org/for-sea-control-first-control-the-electromagnetic-spectrum/37651. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
W. Mitchell, “Winged Defense: The Development and Possibilities of Modern Air Power-­ Economic and Military,” in Roots of Strategy, vol. 4, Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1999, p. 422.
“College of Maritime Operational Warfare Core Curriculum ,” Naval War College, 24-Jan-2019. [Online]. Available: https://usnwc.edu/college-of-maritime-operational-warfare/Core-Curriculum. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
“The Rochefort Group ,” Naval War College, 24-Jan-2019. [Online]. Available: https://usnwc.edu/college-of-maritime-operational-warfare/The-Rochefort-Group. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
“Navy Leader Development Framework, Version 2.0,” Navy.mil, Apr-2018. [Online]. Available: https://www.navy.mil/cno/docs/NLDF_2.pdf. [Accessed: 24-Jan-2019]
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  • J.M. Bender

    I applaud the author’s passion, it’s something I share re: this subject along w/ what I perceive to be his frustration. Trust me, I’m frustrated too. But I’m a bit disappointed at how the author’s style here hobbles his points to where they won’t be read seriously by those who need to be smacked in the face w/ them. The continual, “We are behind” and “You have a choice” lines come across evangelically rather than in a dispassionate and professional manner (and I’m not calling the author unprofessional by saying that). There are several articles recently on the same subject, some I’ve penned myself (https://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/the-cyberspace-operations-planner). And we continue to stumble, continue to falter, continue to act as if this is a surprise. It’s not. Fact is, hard is authorized. And in this case, hard requires confronting things you might not understand, things others already mastered. But when it’s outside of one’s wheelhouse and appears to impede progress on other, more traditional objectives, the traditionalists push back and have the cacophony of support to shout out those trying to make a statement. Kind of like the situation we see portrayed in the mainstream media between liberals and conservatives right now, when the real truth is there’s a vast “exhausted majority” out there who roll their eyes and stay silent because they’re tired of the fringes trying to shout them down. Passionate or dispassionate, keep saying it, brutha. People need to hear it, and will eventually act on it. I just hope it’s not too late when they do…

    • Jason, great comments. Thank you for your candor and input – both the support and constructive criticism. All welcome. You and I seem to be of like minds and we need to keep calling people out, shake the trees and rattle the old guard – so just like you conclude – get people to act and hope it is not too late. Thank you for what you do in serving this great nation and thank you for keeping my family safe.

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