Marines launch cyberspace warfare group

'Offensive’ and ‘defensive’ cyberspace operations will be conducted by a new U.S. Marines Corps cyber warfare group

Marines launch ‘offensive’ cyberspace warfare group
Credit: U.S. Navy via Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Marine Corps intends to protect its networks and communications with a new cyberspace operations team. Notably, the organization said its new unit will have an “offensive” element.

“The Marine Corps is seeing the need for defense of its networks and communications,” a press release on the Marines Corps’ website explained. That will include “what can we do to hinder an enemy,” said Sgt. Brian Mueller, a digital network exploitation analyst with the new Marine Corps Cyberspace Warfare Group (MCCYWG), in the release. He is referring to the “offensive” element.

The Marine Corps sees its communications as being increasingly reliant on networks, and thus thinks it needs to get more proactive.

“We’ve always had the means to communicate and the means to protect that communication,” said Col. Ossen J. D’Haiti, the commanding officer of MCCYWG, in the release. “But today, we’re in an environment where those methods are more and more reliant on a system of transmissions, routers and networks.”

Planning and conducting “full spectrum cyberspace operations” is among the roles the new MCCYWG will perform, according to a U.S. Marine Corps Concepts and Programs website.

That includes the usual organization, training and planning of defensive mechanisms to protect systems. In addition to that, it will plan and conduct Offensive Cyberspace Operations (OCO).

Those are operations that fall under the umbrella of computer network exploitation (CNE), cyberspace intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and operational preparation of the environment (OPE), according to the organization’s website. The group needs to be authorized before conducting OCO.

The Marine Corps operates its own “centralized IT network,” a Fedscoop article reported. Fedscoop has published articles about the new cyber warfare group and has written in the past about the Marines’ IT network.

The publication said late last year that the Marines wanted to continue working on its own network rather than participating in “the Defense Department’s mandatory all-services computer cloud called the Joint Information Environment.”

The Marine Corps network, Marine Corps Enterprise Network (MCEN), was described as being the “network‐of‐networks” in an information update on the Marine Corps’ website in 2011. The update also said the network provides “robust, seamless and secure end‐to‐end communications, from the supporting establishment to our forward deployed forces.”

It's “a network that is live in garrison, moves with us, is mature, scalable and then returns back to that shape,” Brig. Gen. Dennis Crall, CIO of the Marine Corps, said in a Fedscoop article. It’s “one network that operates and extends, not from the flagpole to the fighting hole, but from the fighting hole backward.”

The Marine Corps is still working on building the new cyber warfare group and has only a few mission teams up and running now, but D’Haiti banks on it getting bigger.

“We’re still evolving, but I think five years from now, as the Marine Corps comes online and understands more and more what is happening in this space, the Cyberspace Warfare Group will look much different than it does today,” he said in the press release.

The military group activated the new MCCYWG cyber warfare group this month at a ceremony at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.

“Marines have served valiantly in every one of our nation's conflicts,” the Marine Corps says on its human resources-acting website, the Marines. And indeed the global cyberspace battle might just be the latest of those conflicts.

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