As the battlespace evolves, the warfighter needs to be prepared to fight in every domain – land, sea, air, space. The fifth domain, which is quickly becoming one of the most critical, is cyberspace. The cyber domain is subject to new threats every day and those threats come without the same warnings that precipitate battles in the other domains.
Cyberattacks have already impacted many critical systems from communications, to energy suppliers and utilities and financial systems. The U.S. Army is addressing the urgent need to prepare warfighters for skirmishes in this domain by developing a persistent and realistic training environment. “We’re entering an era of Great Power competition that’s very complex and very different than what we’ve seen for the past ten or fifteen years,” confirmed Gregory Garcia, Deputy CIO/G-6 at a recent conference.
“In the new battlespace, success is no longer defined by bullets and bombs, but technology and speed,” said Don Bray, director of cyber training for Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services.
The training of cyber warriors is as critical as rifle training for every soldier, Bray told us in a recent interview. “Every soldier learns marksmanship skills on a rifle range and you wouldn’t send them out in the field without it,” Bray said. “Training for critical cyber skills is just as important and requires realism that makes critical tasks second nature for soldiers.” It is necessary for the training scenarios to be as real as possible and give trainees the ability to repeatedly practice ensuring preparedness.
The Army’s Persistent Cyber Training Environment (PCTE) will be a hybrid cloud-based training platform designed to support ongoing cyber training and team certification. It will also provide the foundation for collective training networks such as Cyber Flag or Cyber Guard, extending its relevance and reach beyond the current schedule of annual cyber exercises. In essence, PCTE offers a platform for soldiers to train and rehearse for cyber missions in an adaptive and realistic environment.
“In order to be mission ready, the Army needs to think of the PCTE as a cyber-marksmanship range,” Bray continued. “It’s not only all the physical parts of the range, but also all of the tools to conduct training exercises in a secure environment for anytime, anywhere hands-on mission training.”
The cyber environment needs to be realistic and because cyber threats are constantly evolving the training environment must be constantly evolving too with new software, hardware, and connected devices. To keep pace, the PCTE environment needs to deploy Agile and DevOps practices into the development process to ensure PCTE is updated and operational as needed, in hours, not days or weeks.
The PCTE will connect cyber ranges across the services, including Army, Navy, Marines Corps. and Air Force, allowing cyber units and teams to train together across theaters to improve mission readiness. “We’ve trained nearly every soldier since 2008,” said Bray. “And we have the experience to continue to train them for mission readiness into the future battlespace.”