Developing a Strategic Cadre in the Information Dominance Corps

“The EM-cyber environment is now so fundamental to military operations and so critical to our national interests that we must start treating it as a warfighting domain on par with – or perhaps even more important than – land, sea, air, and space.”

-Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert
Chief of Naval Operations
Proceedings Magazine, December 2012 (Vol 138/12)

EM War

The U.S. Navy has embraced the electromagnetic (EM)-cyber domain as a core warfighting domain, combining critical Navy communities in Information Warfare, Intelligence, Information Professional, Meteorology, Oceanography and Space Operations into an “Information Dominance” Corps. A series of policy statements and guiding documents have been recently published governing how the Navy will approach this domain, including the Information Dominance Roadmap (2013-2028), the Navy Information Dominance Corps Human Capital Strategy (2012-2017), and the Navy Strategy for Achieving Information Dominance (2013-2017). [1] These have been followed by the CNO’s Navigation Plan (2015-2019)  [2], which identifies combat maneuver capabilities in the EM-cyber domain as critical to the operating tenants of warfighting first, forward operating and readiness.

These all represent important steps in addressing the critical challenges we face globally as a Navy, especially from state and non-state actors who can complicate the ability of naval forces to move into a theater (anti-access) and maneuver within the theater (area-denial). We no longer occupy the “information high ground” in the EM-cyber domain, and our most advanced forces and weapons systems are held at risk not only by technologically advanced anti-ship missiles but also by inexpensive and readily available A2/AD strategies.

What is missing, however, from this plan of action is the development of a “strategic cadre” within the Information Dominance Corps, who can meet the CNO’s vision. The Human Capital Strategy identifies as its fourth goal “Create a Warfighting Culture,” which is certainly admirable and necessary. This goal is supported by two objectives: orient the “total Navy workforce to the IDC mission” and “leverage kill chain concepts (integrated fires) to depict and communicate the process through which the ID discipline contributes to the delivery of warfighting effects.” This implies an ID corps which is tactically proficient and the need for the Navy to recognize how it fits within warfighting. But it seems to skirt too close to suggesting the ID corps – and EM-cyber – enables the delivery of warfighting effects rather than delivering those effects itself. Weaponized cyber code is no different than a Tomahawk fired from a ship or submarine or a JDAM dropped from an F/A-18.

But to truly develop a warfighting culture, the IDC must have a strategic cadre within its community that develops tactics, operational concepts and strategies that blend kinetic and non-kinetic effects meeting combatant commander objectives. Surface warfare officers learn first how to “fight the ship,” and later how to “fight the Fleet.” The Information Dominance corps must learn to do the same.

To become a strategic thinker, one must practice the art of strategy. Traditionally, this does not become a focus in the Navy until the more senior officer and enlisted ranks. Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss the state of Navy strategic thinking with other junior officers in the unrestricted line and land warfare communities. These brilliant young Navy and Marine Corps officers made a number of key points that apply as much to the nascent Information Dominance Corps as they do to traditional Navy warfighting domains:

• We are a Navy that emphasizes training over education. Training teaches you to fight the expected fight, but education teaches you to fight the unexpected fight.

• Administrative competency cannot replace the Clausewitzian “Genius for War” – the coup d’oeil that embodies the natural strategist. Mastering the endless checklists and standard operating procedures, while necessary, are the beginning of the journey to strategic thinking, not the culmination.

• We cannot “surge” strategic literacy, or even operational level thinking. If the talent is not there beforehand, it will not be there when we need it.

The Information Dominance Corps must take these lessons to heart and incorporate the development of a strategic cadre within the IDC. Currently the IDC emphasizes the technical skills and systems understanding to perform the individual tasks necessary to meet mission requirements. We must go a step further, cultivating the knowledge to not only operate the equipment but understand how to employ it to attack critical adversary vulnerabilities as part of the Joint Force.

Some items for consideration might be:

• Development of an Advanced Maritime EM-Cyber Operations Course, designed for junior officers who have completed their first tactical operations tour. By this point in his/her career, the young officer has qualified in their respective designator, qualified as an Information Dominance Warfare Officer and completed a forward, tactical operations tour (PCS Afloat, Direct Support, etc.). This course should provide the JO with an advanced understanding of the electromagnetic environment and how use it in various tactical and operational situations in wartime scenarios. The emphasis here, however, it not on the technical or scientific knowledge, but the employment of EM-cyber weapons during conflict. This perhaps could be the EM-cyber equivalent of a “Top Gun” school.

• Integration of EM-cyber warfare as a core component of Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) Phase I and the Naval War College / Naval Post-Graduate School programs.

• The Navy is considering the establishment of a formal Naval Strategic Enterprise to develop a cadre of naval strategic thinkers. At present, this program is only open to unrestricted line officers. Members of the Information Dominance Corps still remain restricted line officers and are ineligible to participate. The Navy Strategic Enterprise should be opened up to members of the IDC.

• Traditionally under the Composite Warfare Concept, the role Information Warfare Commander has been filled by an individual ship commanding officer. [3] This role should be redefined with an IDC officer principally assuming the IWC role.

To fully adopt a warfighting culture and treat the EM-cyber environment as a warfighting domain equivalent to, or more important than land, sea, air and space, the Information Dominance Corps must do more than develop tactical expertise in the use of specialized equipment. It must cultivate a new crop of strategic thinkers who are experts in the creative exploitation of the electromagnetic environment and blending of kinetic and non-kinetic fires to achieve warfighting effects. These new strategists must be grounded both in traditional military theory and history as well as the emerging operational concepts of fighting across the entire EM spectrum, in space and in cyberspace. Without strategic thinking, information dominance becomes impossible.


LT Robert “Jake” Bebber USN is an Information Warfare officer assigned to the staff of Commander, U.S. Cyber Command. He holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Central Florida. He is supported by his wife Dana and their son, Vincent. The views expressed here do not represent those of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Cyber Command or the Department of Defense. He welcomes your comments at


[1] All of these documents are available at:


[1] The Free Library. S.v. Developing a new model for maritime tactical information dominance..” Retrieved Aug 23 2014 from

13 thoughts on “Developing a Strategic Cadre in the Information Dominance Corps”

  1. Good article, Jake. Absolutely concur that there should be a core function/group/cadre of folks who understand and practice information dominance strategy formulation/execution. Where we differ just a bit is your postulation that training and education are an either/or thing. Agree that training teaches students to deal with what is…and that education enables them to think about what might be. However, I would claim that training provides the tools and basic understanding for more extensive, deeper education and true understanding that in turn enables good strategy formulation. It is the arithmetic that allows one to eventually understand calculus, which in turn enables a deeper understanding of how things work. Keep up the great work, Jake, and keep writing!!

    1. Thanks for the great feedback! We don’t disagree on the necessity of training and what it brings. I think (and I’m sure you also agree) that we need to develop a strategic track or curriculum that permits IDC members to go from being tacticians to strategists. I’m not sure we’re doing the second part. Your comments are spot on!

  2. If the IDC and Navy were serious about making the EM spectrum a warfare area, why not include those who have been living and fighting in the EM spectrum for decades, Prowler and Growler pilots and NFOs? There are those who have the tactical and strategic experience but are being excluded.
    A good article, but the IDC was not formed just because EM is a war fighting domain. To think the two are inextricably linked is flawed. A better way to think of it is that the EM spectrum provides the IDC an offensive capability, but the entire Corps does not exist to support tactical and strategic use of the the EM spectrum.

  3. Thanks Wolfpack! I know a lot of Prowler and Growler pilots/NFO’s that have lateral transferred for those very reasons. They bring those qualities we need to the table. I just think the IDC needs to move beyond training and start developing its own strategic cadre and curriculum, starting in the senior JO years. While it is true we’ve been doing EW for quite some time, I think the definition and scope has broadened and we need to start considering the implications. EA-6 and EA-18 pilots/NFOs can bring a lot to the table, along with SWOs trained as EWOs.

    1. Jake, I think we are on the same page. When I was the Ship’s Intel Officer on a CVN, I remembered more about shipboard EW than the two IW Divos I had working for me. They both went to the EWO school, and while they were responsible or the EW Mod, nether had any background prior to arriving to the ship (and the EWO school was not up to the task). I think too many in the IDC see Cyber, and forget SIGINT and don’t even acknowledge that EW is part of the IW tool kit. Fianlly, I was shot down when I proposed that the EA-6B/F/A-18G community be allowed to earn the IDC qual in a process similiar to the space cadre.

  4. Jake, have you been following TASK FORCE CYBER AWAKENING (TFCA)? This is a recent initiative by the DNI to over see / manage the cyber seams across the Navy, to change the cyber-culture of the Navy, and to manage the POM process IRT to this issue. You stated, “What is missing, however, from this plan of action is the development of a “strategic cadre” within the Information Dominance Corps, who can meet the CNO’s vision.” But to the CNO, this TFCA is what is needed right now to protect the interests and mission of the Navy. In the current fiscal & manning constricted environment, a new cadre is a tough sell, and the CNO and DNI are working with the staff / capabilities current in hand. Also, as a former EP-3 NFO (now intel officer), I concur with WOLFPACK that EW/Cyber is a larger community then the IDC. We should support and lead when able – but not go at it alone. Just my thoughts!

    1. Dennis, no I’m not familiar with TFCA. Thanks for sharing the info! I don’t mean to suggest that the IDC has to “go it alone” … but it is made up of 5 separate communities already and it is charged with fighting in the EM/cyber domain. If it is going to do so effectively, then it must develop a strategic cadre in the same way that our pilots, SWOs, submariners and special operators (URLs) develop a strategic cadre. EM/cyber is more than just cyber, and certainly cuts across a variety of communities and warfare disciplines. We need to stop thinking of ourselves in the “support role” and rather put ourselves in the “lead” role, much the same way that the pilot leads the air domain and the surface warfare officer leads the surface domain, just as an example. To be sure, Intel plays a critical support role to the URL, and I don’t doubt that the air community values that critical role. Nor does the air community believe it is “going it alone” either. Still, at the end of the day, the men and women flying the planes are the ones that lead the fight in the air domain, and build the strategic corps around it. The IDC should be no different.

  5. The realm of Information Dominance reminds me of my dog’s breakfast of leftovers. It is composed of orphans such as meteorology and oceanography, intelligence, and cryptology, networks, communications, and a plethora of floating definitions all obscuring an intelligent conversation on the foundational subject of information warfare. They are a forced aggregation of disparate capabilities. A meteorologist is immersed in the physics of the oceans and atmosphere, the cryptologist in the physics of signals. The fact that signals can pass through the atmosphere or the oceans does not connect the cryptologist with the meteorologist any more than it connects the aviator, SWO and submariner.

    How can one even consider “Strategic Thinking” when the concept of this IDC “community” is at best a fantasy and at worst a contrived solution to reduce costs and manpower? No amount of education or training, let alone a Junior Officer course, is going to create a “strategic cadre” in an invented world.

    The idea of an IDC Officer within the composite warfare commander organization makes sense. It’s been done and it was successful. But that was when you could point to a single designator, with a focused career path leading up to 0-6, which provided a concise set of experiences and capabilities. With the current grouping of designators and career paths in today’s IDC one can only guess as to how such an important position could be detailed.

    It’s time to get back to some basics.

  6. The electromagnetic spectrum has been a core sphere of warfare knowledge and activity since at least the 1940s with active and passive systems on land, on manned and unmanned aircraft, on surface ships, on submarines and on land. Radars, IFF, data links, RF communications, electronic surveillance, ELINT, COMINT, imaging systems, jammers, LASERS, and anti- radiation systems are examples. So what is the value added of the Information Dominance Corps (IDC) to this broad, long-established sphere of warfare? Are the N-2/N-6/ IDC going to be the requirements and resource sponsor for all Navy systems that operate in the electromagnetic spectrum? Are the N-2/N-6/IDC going to decide what electromagnetic systems are going to be in space, on ships, submarines and aircraft? Are they going to decide which systems are funded and on which platforms? This doesn’t make any sense.

    The author states the “US Navy has embraced Information Warfare as a warfighting domain.” This is not new. For years the Navy’s Composite Warfare Commander concept has included C2, Space and EW Commander/Information Warfare Commander. The embrace of information warfare occurred decades ago. The author uses terms such as EM-Cyber Warfare, and Information Dominance Warfare Officer. The Navy identifies the IDC 184X designator as “CYBER WARFARE ENGINEER”. Strategic thinking might start with some clear and concise definitions that comport with established joint and navy doctrine thereby making possible an intelligent conversation.

    The author states the unsubstantiated assertion that: “We no longer occupy the “information high ground” in the EM-cyber domain”. While this could be true in some limited areas, the US certainly still occupies the high ground in many areas, for example reconnaissance systems and platforms, data links, and radars. What specific “EM-Cyber” high ground do we no longer occupy?

    Strategic thinking within the Information Dominance Corps may have merit. However, given the various flavors and textures of content encompassed by the term Information Dominance, it would appear the separate strategies for intelligence, meteorology/oceanography, cryptology, information warfare, and cyber are needed.

    The author notes that: “traditionally under the Composite Warfare Concept, the role Information Warfare Commander has been filled by an individual ship commanding officer. This role should be redefined with an IDC officer principally assuming the IWC role.” Of the six IDC officer designators only the 181X Information Warfare specialists (previously 161X/164X) have a semblance of knowledge and experience to perform the Information Warfare Commander role. The IDC thinkers might come up with a strategy by which Information Warfare specialists (181Xs) are established as unrestricted line officers and trained and qualified to perform the IWC function in the fleet. Moreover, it would be useful to define the role of the N-2/N-6 in structuring, training and equipping the fleet to support the development and integration of Information Warfare functionality into combat systems. A cursory inspection of N-2/N-6 budget request suggests that this functionality is low priority; and, that for the Navy’s Information Dominance systems command, SPAWAR, integration of IW capabilities within a platform’s combat system remains an unnatural act.

    This quote from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland seems appropriate with regard to the Information Dominance Corps.

    “How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another.”

  7. I’m not convinced that cyber operations are tactically applicable and mature enough to doctrinally reside in the same warfare domain as EM. Weaponized cyber code is far different from an EM system (or a JDAM for that matter) when you think about it from a C2 perspective. At this point the release authority for weaponized code is held at the highest levels of the chain of command. Until a component commander has the ability to operationally or tactically control cyber effects with their assigned units I think attempts to doctrinally link EM and cyber will not translate well in the battle space.

    As for the strategic cadre, perhaps this is simply a case of semantics but if a strategist is talking about tactics, operational concepts and the effect of kinetic and non-kinetic actions they aren’t a strategist. They’re tacticians or operational planners. Strategists occupy a higher level of analysis and planning.

    1. Reference your comment that: “…attempts to doctrinally link EM and cyber will not translate well in the battle space”, what is “EM” — Electromagnetic Warfare? Surely the Navy doesn’t intend to decree all activities in the electromagnetic spectrum a warfare area. What is “cyber” — cyber warfare? Is it new separate warfare area or a part of Information Warfare?

      Upon reading this article and comments, the Eaglet in Alice in Wonderland might again observe: “Speak English! I don’t know the meaning of half those long words, and I don’t believe you do either! “

  8. Jake-
    I’d like to suggest that you expand your thinking to include the cognitive realm. Information Operations take place in both the EM-Cyber realm and in Congitive Space. While the preponderance of the IDC seems to be focusing on the former, I’d argue (borrowing a piece from Sun Tzu) that the latter is more important. Especially in a “you break it, you bought it” era. I’d also argue that the latter is more important to strategic thinkers.

    Just my $.02.


Leave a Reply