US Army Plans to Transform Cyber Operations to Counter China, Russia: Report

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
January 15, 2020Updated: January 15, 2020

The U.S. Army will be converting its cyber operations into an information warfare command in an effort to counter opponents such as Russia and China, a top U.S. general said.

The Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville appeared to confirm that proposals to transform the Cyber Command into the Army Information Warfare Command will be going ahead, dropping the information into a wide-ranging talk hosted by the Atlantic Council on Jan. 14 about the challenges of army modernization.

McConville said the Army now recognizes the importance of information operations and plans to combat “great power” opponents.

“Our Cyber Command is going to become an information warfare command,” McConville said, adding that the service will create “cyber ranges” and digital operations to help soldiers with their training.

“We’re going to use virtual reality, augmented reality, so our soldiers can train on missions before they actually have to go,” McConville said.

By 2028, McConville said he hopes the U.S. Army will move away from an industrial-age army to a digital-age army. However, by spring it is expected that information-related operations will shift to Fort Gordon, Georgia, from Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Soldiers will be made to figure out their opponents’ deceptive tactics by analyzing vast amounts of information in cyberspace.

“There’s that old adage, ‘generals are always trying to fight the last war,’” McConville said. “Well, we’re not. We want to win the next war.”

A Pentagon official also said on Jan. 10 that over the next two years, the Army plans to deploy two specialized task forces to the Pacific capable of conducting information, electronic, cyber, and missile operations against Beijing.

U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said at an event in Washington on Friday: “The Army is reinvigorating our presence and disposition in the Pacific. China will emerge as America’s strategic threat.”

The units, called Multi-Domain Task Forces, would help neutralize some capabilities China and Russia already possess. The units would potentially be equipped with long-range precision weapons, hypersonic missiles, precision strike missiles, electronic warfare, and cyber capabilities, McCarthy said, without citing any locations.

Having “the U.S. Army, with modernized weaponry” in the region “changes the calculus and creates dilemmas for potential adversaries,” McCarthy said.

“China has been miniaturizing the global commons,” he said, referring to China’s fortification of small islands in the South China Sea.

“Nothing comes close to the effects of boots on the ground, standing shoulder to shoulder with our counterparts, huddled over plans, or walking through jungles together,” he added.

Reuters contributed to this report.