Military leaders praise TechNet’s role in improving country’s cyber security efforts

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MG John Morrison, Jr., Commanding General, U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Commanding General, Fort Gordon, speaks during opening day of the TechNet, a huge trade show focused on cyber defense, Tuesday morning August 8, 2017 in Augusta, Ga. MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF

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Representatives from defense and cyber related industries pack the convention floor during opening day of the TechNet, a huge trade show focused on cyber defense, Tuesday morning August 8, 2017 in Augusta, Ga. MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF

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Soldiers check out some of the equipment available from Perkins Technical Services during the opening day of TechNet, a huge trade show focused on cyber defense, Tuesday morning August 8, 2017 in Augusta, Ga. MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF

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Representatives from defense and cyber related industries on the convention floor during opening day of the TechNet, a huge trade show focused on cyber defense, Tuesday morning August 8, 2017 in Augusta, Ga. MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF

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MG John Morrison, Jr., Commanding General, U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Commanding General, Fort Gordon, speaks during opening day of the TechNet, a huge trade show focused on cyber defense, Tuesday morning August 8, 2017 in Augusta, Ga. MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF

Cyberspace — the military’s newest theater of conflict — demands a new approach to fighting within it.

That’s what Fort Gordon’s commanding general told attendees Tuesday at the opening day of TechNet, the sprawling annual trade show that brings to Augusta thousands of military, government, academic and private-sector players in the growing field of cybersecurity.

Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr. also is commander of the fort’s U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence, which operates the military’s largest communications and cybersecurity training centers.

Speaking to a packed room of military and civilian technology experts, Morrison detailed the operational framework called CEMA – cyberspace electromagnetic activities. It is designed to better streamline missions that previously might have overlapped or needlessly duplicated.

“What a difference a year makes,” Morrison said. “We now have our first doctrine for fighting in cyberspace and electronic warfare, and the operations supporting it.”

CEMA codifies how the Army will operate and strive for military supremacy in three core competencies that now have been bound together – signal communications, cyber and electronic warfare.

Electronic warfare, or EW, experts will be moved into the Army’s cyber branch. “And while that’s effective in October of next year, that transition actually starts now. We will start training our electronic warfare professionals in cyber operations starting in January.”

EW differs from cyber. Cyber chiefly involves activities launched over computer networks. EW involves actions relayed on the electronic spectrum. Common examples of EW include radar-jamming, infrared-guided weapons sensors and microwave weapons that can disable electronic systems.

The Army’s EW capabilities declined during the waning days of the Cold War as tactical needs changed. But during the war in Iraq, when enemies began using radio-controlled improvised explosive devices, the need quickly grew to re-invigorate EW as a critical combat component.

“We divested ourselves of our electronic warfare capability for all the right reasons. But we need to rebuild that capacity, because I would submit to you that when it comes to electronic warfare we are outgunned,” Morrison said. “On cyber I’m very comfortable. On the network I’m very comfortable. But when it comes to electronic warfare capability, we are plain outgunned by peer and near-peer competitors.”

“Peer” and “near-peer” are terms used to describe adversaries who match or approach U.S. tactical competency.

Such military needs underscore the importance of events such as TechNet, Morrison said. Input from the private sector is crucial.

“We need industry’s help in making sure we get integrated capabilities out into the force that are simple and intuitive that can be operated by soldiers,” Morrison said. “We need industry’s help to get us there.”

An estimated 200 exhibitors are expected to appear at this year’s TechNet. It is being held at the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center, and continues through Thursday.