#38 Reynolds on Operations in the Information Environment

#38 Reynolds on Operations in the Information Environment

welcome to the cognitive crucible produced by the information professionals association our website is information hyphen professionals.org where you can find links and information about today’s conversation and get access to members only content join john bicknell and explore all aspects of our generational challenge cognitive security my guest today on the cognitive crucible is marine corps lieutenant general lori reynolds who is the deputy commandant for information at the headquarters of the united states marine corps general reynolds welcome to the cognitive crucible john thanks really appreciate being here in late 2020 the marine corps published mcdp 1-4 which is simply entitled competing and coincidentally we recently had colonel bill vivian on the podcast whom i think you probably know general who was one of the principal authors of this document could you please give your perspective on competing why why did the marine corps publish this now who is the primary audience and also do you have any kind of a sense of what the reception has been for this pub yeah uh so i’ll start with the last question i think the reception has been generally positive um you know if you listened if your listeners listened to the last um podcast with bill uh you know colonel vivian you’ll know that you know competing came out of uh the mandate of the national defense strategy and the return to great power competition and i think you know where the commandant was with this is that you know we all have to kind of challenge the status quos that have been established in over the last 20 years of you know fighting this is a different fight and we have to have a different mindset and i think competing helps you get into that mindset of you know for us in the marine corps this idea of naval campaigning and in the information environment in particular getting organized for that competition so that you know we can you know align authorities and do all those things that kind of help us to um to get the force and the training and and the you know the kit right but also i think you know it you know from from education of the force you know just helping to fundamentally rethink you know what it is that the military is here to do who our partners are in great our competition and um so really timely i think it’s really good i mean it’s a really good read and it really does help to challenge all of us at every echelon for this new fight right so continuing with your expertise in information operations operations in in the information environment uh so information warfare is is not new could you review for us the recent evolution from a marine corps perspective of information as an instrument of national power and as a war fighting function so i i can just tell you you know um that you know when most of us were coming up in the service we we had the staff function of information operations which is to say that you know um you had your traditional military activities and and then you know we would we would have some kind of you know um other capabilities uh information related capabilities whether it was electromagnetic warfare or cyber space or influence activities that we would kind of you know tack on to our conventional um operations i think what’s changed now is that you have a couple new warfighting domains you have cyberspace as a warfighting domain and that really challenged you you to think differently um about how to how to actually conduct the fight space as a new warfighting domain so i think there’s and also the evolution of social media and its impact um um on how we fight quite frankly and and so all of these are to say that the information environment at large is now increasingly important um so with great power competition you know the rise of gray zone warfare hybrid warfare and how some of our adversaries are using the information environment the requirement now is to just elevate information to the role of the commander so in 2017 then secretary mattis said that information is now a joint function so that requires that we think separately about information and how we deal with it and then in 2018 in the marine corps then commandant neller declared that information is the seventh battle space function so the other battle space functions are these are functions that commanders must deal with these are commander level things so we’re talking command and control fires maneuver intelligence logistics force protection and now information and so you know some of the work that my team at deputy comrade for information have been doing is to say what exactly does it mean to apply information as a warfighting function at the commander level at echelons of command and how do we empower commanders to actually think differently with information so hopefully that answers that question yeah it does thank you and so you mentioned uh a number of the war fighting domains uh including space do do you foresee uh well i i should say a few weeks back we had a gentleman named august cole on the podcast you you may know who he is uh general uh he actually has an affiliation with the marine corps at the at the the brute crew lack uh center there on quantico but he he has uh put forth a concept uh for uh the cognitive domain also being a war fighting function looking forward a few years do you do you foresee the cognitive domain actually being a warfighting domain you know i don’t know john i have to wrap my brain around that inside information as a warfighting function for the marine corps we very much are thinking about uh the cognitive domain and we deal with that with things like influence activities uh deception activities but also uh in inform activities that is to say strategic communications and one of the things that is a little bit different about how you know the marine corps views this this whole area and and honestly the language inside the pentagon is is all over the place right um the navy for example has uh information warfare we call it operations of the information environment for a reason and the reason is that and the reason why i’m the deputy commandant for information and not the deputy commandant for information warfare is because we very much believe that strategic communications is part of this is part of this competition and the integration of the strategic narrative with all of the other things that we have to do is is going to be increasingly important and and i know that you know some of your other guests john have spent time talking about the importance of the narrative um there’s a lot of good articles out there right now on the importance of the narrative and winning the narrative and so um so when you go back to the cognitive domain i i don’t know i don’t know how you would define that when i think about a warfighting domain i’m talking places where you know we have commanders and um forces and mission essential tasks and things so uh i think what you’re stumbling on uh with august is we got to get the language down on in this area and and really be clear about what we mean when we talk about domains or dimensions or environments we really just need to have a meeting of the the minds on that so that we all know what we’re talking about i think the good thing is that everybody’s thinking about it right so it he you know do we have to get after the cognitive uh piece of this we absolutely do yeah and that is definitely part of the marine corps um thinking on this for sure right yeah no doubt on all of that i i think of the cognitive domain is is almost like uh the internet of things and it’s like you know combat at the edge if you will if the edges are individual brains but yeah now that makes a lot of sense there’s there’s a a lot of change happening a lot of definitions that still have to be evolved and iterated on until i i guess we the collective we the joint force you know settles on some um some some common terminology but you started mentioning various aspects of your purview so perhaps uh you could tell our audience a little bit more about that we a couple of months ago we had brian russell on the podcast who is the commanding officer of two mig down in camp lejeune and he gave an overview of of what the mig is and its uh components but you know some in our audience may be unfamiliar with with your office and your role do you think you could give a a quick 101 as far as you know what what your office is and and what you do and some of the major components yeah sure thing so at about the same time as the marine corps uh created the meth information groups so that was uh then called force design 2025 right the the migs came out of that um again because at the time general neller knew that you know the increasing importance of the information environment and going to have to fight for information and he used to say we’re gonna have to fight to get to the fight you know because we knew then that things were changing so at about the same time um he also knew that we needed to elevate um our thinking at the staff level so the service exists to organize train equip provide doctrine and policy and until 2017 we didn’t have at the three-star level anyone that was really um working any of these kinds of issues um so inside deputy commandant for information which was stood up in 2017 um i took the job in 2018 we we have uh the two biggest divisions are the intelligence uh the director of intelligence works for me and uh the deputy don cio so i have the cio function and all of the team that does uh the work for the network you know tactical edge all the way back into the pentagon so the network intelligence we have a maneuver division that we created like right now it’s being led by a former mig commander colonel jordan walter and there is where we think about how do you maneuver in the information environment so signals intelligence uh mso operations uh he is kind of the touch point for the mig commanders in terms of um uh hearing from them very often how do we scale what they’re learning uh and reacting to whatever programs a record might be important to them osent any of these new capabilities that would be colonel walzer in the maneuver division he uh he happens to be the outfield manager for for the cyber mos because we’re still refining that mos i have a plans and strategy division um and that is basically my my up and out division integration with the joint staff so all the work on on concepts around information the information advantage concept that’s where i interact as well with our wargaming folks down in quantico so we’re doing a really uh series of war games right now on competition at mcwill which are fascinating and that would be my plans and strategy folks these are the folks that are also working they they would uh interact with the doctrine folks at quantico to make sure that information is embedded in all of our new doctrine um i have a workforce division who’s there to help me think about new skill sets for civilians we know that retention of our civilian workforce whether it’s in the you know any of the technology fields or the intelligence fields we’re going to have to up our game to retain the best talent so we’re thinking through that i have a war room where my chief technical officer is that’s where we think about agile methodologies for um just solving complex problems that the marine corps has that’s where we think about artificial intelligence and the integration of data and and really working harder at getting our data right in the marine corps but there’s also a section in that war room that has information mods where we um we innovate with some r d dollars and some of the combat support agencies and try to make some of the quick equipment that we have better so that would be the war room and then i have i have another small division that works with the navy on some strategic competition things so that’s kind of that gives you the feel for dci uh writ large it’s um it’s really exciting um hard sometimes to bring folks together and find the common um touch points but but we’ve come a long way and uh um it’s really an exciting time to be there wow that is an astonishing scope of operations and then on top of that you are a dual hatted with northcom and cybercom are you not um no i i was uh the commander more for strat as well as dci but the marine corps just made some key choices here last year and we stood up mark for space and um what we decided to do there was the dual hat marine forces cyberspace and marine forces space so right now uh general jerry glavy up there in fort meade is also more for space and we have we have kind of reduced our footprint at strat so i really don’t hold that uh that bullet anymore oh okay well that’s that’s that’s five pounds that you can take out of your pack i guess okay now instead of uh instead of 105 pound pack it’s only a hundred pound pack team sports easy day um a couple of weeks ago in the in the middle of march the commandant general berger along with air force chief of staff general brown they uh published an article in war on the rocks and but by the way all of these items will be linked in in the show notes for our audience but they the article was called redefine readiness or lose and these two service chiefs describe in this article what they call a fleeting window of opportunity for us to adapt and modernize the joint force along with a rather urgent call to action what is your role as dci in the marine corps modernization efforts and what items are you pursuing with urgency look i think i think thing number one is all things support force design right so as you think about all the things that uh the marine corps is trying to get after right now uh to become more agile lighter global globally relevant not not that we weren’t in the past but everything that we would do you know to support the effort in for example the indo-pacific area uh the expectation is all of that work would apply globally so that we you know never give anybody to doubt the fact that we are still the expeditionary force and readiness that we’ve always been but from a network or uh intelligence perspective you you gotta wrap your brain around the fact that these adversaries that we have today are globally positioning themselves and so i’ll start with intel um we need you know the best um national level intelligence down to the tactical level and so that comes with it policy change it comes with it a kit change um a tradecraft uh change so there’s there’s all kinds of uh good work that’s going on to kind of have the isr enterprise that we have here the marico which is really good think more globally and how to how do we operationalize it if you will um how does one two and three meth work together as an isr enterprise against a global competitor the same is true by the way on the network right so we know that we will be contested on the network and so that this is uh we’ve been working really hard on this um taking best advantage of the technology that’s available to us right high velocity compute artificial intelligence um data needed wherever data is needed data needs to get there so i already mentioned trying to get data right in the marine corps um so you know and then thinking about command and control right john so so the days of large static command posts are done we need mobile agile points of presence right and so as a common how do you think about that how do you think about you know pace plans or you know primary alternate contingency and emergency like your method of reaching out and communicating how do you do that at echelon over large distributed areas um really hard work but the technology you know on the other hand is better than it’s ever been right and so how do we kind of challenge the acquisition process to move as quickly as we possibly can to kind of meet some of these new mandates so i mean really across the entire portfolio you know intel c4 it’s it’s fundamentally not not negating what we have done for the last 20 years because the whole fine fix finish thing is now just applicable at scale on a global and so now we have to stack new capabilities on top of that right so we need to continue to refine some of all that learning that we that we got really good at right um so and then again adding a brand new portfolio adding information as a warfighting function um and really embedding this thinking into commanders at echelon and i’ll just say that you know you know the migs so proud of them you know we really didn’t do a lot in 2018 when we created the migs we said we said change your name and get her done um because we knew that we needed to learn you know what what is it with just you know a few really smart folks and authority right so when i was a meff headquarters group commander i had i had no um expectation that i would actually tell the com battalion operationally what to do they worked for the g6 and the intel and radio battalions worked for the g2 the idea with the migs now is you now own them you are commanding and controlling and you are integrating those capabilities but we are learning so much now um and we’re you know again we’re we’re building on everything that they’ve done we’re creating new doctrine we’re building new programs a record to enable them we’re trying to scale everything that they’re doing and so there’s just there’s a lot there’s a lot going on integrating defensive cyberspace capabilities and and creating new partners um and so we’re on a journey that’s all i can say i just keep saying we’re on a journey uh we’re all learning and i think you know being a learning organization and making sure that you are capable of listening hearing you know building that into your portfolio and then keep moving that’s that’s what we’re all about right now yeah wow thanks for all of that one of the themes that comes up over and over again and i know that you’re no stranger to this general is the necessity the imperative actually for partnering and collaborating uh in ways that i mean partnering has always been important but there seems to be a renewed emphasis and making sure that uh uh yeah we we are doing this like we’ve never done before so what what are some of the agencies that you find yourself partnering with the most and could you also talk a little bit about which agencies you’d like to develop some stronger relationships with and and finally what are your thoughts about corporate engagement relative to national security yeah so um look i think in the information environment it really is a game of authorities and it’s you know being highly maneuverable you know i call it stacking authorities um you can you can you can talk talk to it about you know maneuverable with your authorities but the way that you do that is you just create partnerships you go out you you figure out who else has like um you know objectives or end states and you figure out you know uh you know how you can work together um so uh you know let me just start with the united states navy i mean and i should have said that in the last question you know uh naval integration for the marine corps is is the future and and it’s it’s a really fun time you know to be in the hallway right now and figuring out for example how you know the marine corps oie capability can partner most effectively with the navy’s iw capability they’re really really good at systems confrontation at sea and so forth and so just finding you know those really strong touch points where we can organize together so all of the other services obviously i mean we’re really keeping track on you know how the army and the air force are developing their information capabilities the coast guard you know we’re working on a product called the military power maritime power in the information environment so it’s the navy the coast guard the marine corps how do we work together to uh implement advantage at sea which is it’s just the strategy for maritime operations and those three services obviously the three letter agencies any of the intelligence agencies that have a role to play the state department the global engagement uh center which is getting increasingly effective um i mean one of the things about the information environment is and you know this is one of the talking points with all of our commanders is that it doesn’t respect lines on a map it doesn’t respect you know your areas of operation your areas of responsibility so you have to think differently that opens the window for every partner that might have another objective there are some wonderful allies who think like we do in this space some of our traditional allies are wonderful partners and they can do things in their own national interests that happen to coincide with ours other combatant commanders u.s cyber clan us socom has a tremendous history here um so um we’re open to all of those um with regard to industry i think you know my attention um you know i mentioned technology and all of our modernization initiatives we can’t do it without um our industry partners um and so you know some of the work that the department is doing to provide secure places for small businesses and others to kind of innovate inside inside for example our devsecops environment um those kinds of initiatives that we’re working on to help uh more players with good ideas come help us um so training and education john right so we have conducted a couple different pilots with our um for data science with amazon and northern virginia community college so can we think differently about training marines an advanced skill set based on amazon’s curriculum and using nova’s instructors not the way we did in the past but doesn’t mean we don’t have to do it differently in the future and so those have been really really good pilots so again you know you got to challenge the status quo you know uh we we uh it’s a new day and we got to think of new ways to solve today’s problems so right right i was just listening to uh the phoenix cast which is uh another cyber related podcast run by a couple of marines i think anyway one of their recent episodes and i’ll put a link to this in the show notes but they were discussing how there’s a uh been a shift in pme or like self pme uh towards marines and uh you know the civilian work workforce within dod as well uh pursuing more micro credentials which are indicators of competencies in various different aspects of the cyber environment for example so and i should have mentioned by the way i thought you were going to mention the phoenix cast work with our cyber auxiliary we created the marine corps cyber auxiliary about two years ago and uh and and basically what that is is we we said to industry academia anybody who wanted to partner with the marine corps to solve some of our problems um and uh it’s been wonderful so you know they can’t do on keyboard operations obviously but they can help us think through some of our problems um and so we have a cyber auxiliary in the marine corps but but yeah john pme in some of these technology areas has to change so we’ve been working with naval postgraduate school to for a kind of a stacked certificates program um so maybe i don’t have time to send one of my you know high-speed cyber guys to monterey california for two years at a time but can i can i send them for three to four months at a time and and get certificates and what we have learned is that um education is really important to to some of these marines i can’t pay on what they’re worth marine corps will never be able to pay some of these smart young cyber operators um what they’re worth but if we can retain them long enough to retirement perhaps if when they retire they can you know walk out with a master’s degree that that’s a win so we’re looking at all of those kinds of things um to kind of uh you know just incentivize retention but also to help them while they are in uniform and give them the most you know up-to-date thinking and education on uh some of these skill sets i’ll tell you the other one is cloud technologies um we’re learning how difficult that might be um so do we need a new mos do we have to have a certificate based program for some of these you know other technologies that we know we’re going to rely on um maybe um so uh again data science you know all of these things um are uh their discovery areas for us and and again i’m just you know trying to encourage folks to keep their um don’t dismiss it you know don’t dismiss any ideas bring them to us and let us figure out if they have merit if we can figure out how to do it right another uh line that runs through everything that you’ve been talking about laurie is uh uh it you there’s there’s a quote from you that i found online which i think is uh you’re you’re well known for saying this possibly is that it’s not the it it’s no longer the big that eat the small it’s the fast that eat the slow and so whether we’re talking about uh these micro credentials or uh speeding up the adoption of new technology or you know just using data science and machine learning to to to to accelerate the orient and observe portion of the ooda loop i mean all of this is about making quicker decisions and adapting faster john that’s so that’s exactly right i i am the way that i have come to describe operations in the information environment for marines especially and it seems to resonate is i said look guys whether i’m talking about the technical side of ops in the information environment or the cognitive side i’m either talking about the ooda loop or kill chains i’m talking about red kill chains and the red ooda loop where i’m talking defending blue kill chains and defending uh blue ooda loops so i want to be inside the adversary’s decision cycle every single time we want to do everything that we can to fracture his or her ability to make a decision um or to execute that fires campaign while we are defending our own and and we’re going to use non-kinetic we’re going to use kinetic we’re going to use space cyber influence deception it’s really about how you package all of those things and why and so you know speed is everything there right you know growing up in the marine corps you know i learned about the ooda loop and uh i don’t want to say that the ooloop concept became you know just kind of like status quo background assumption but it was kind of a bit of a background assumption but it seems today that the oodaloop concept is like vividly coming to the foreground as one of the more important concepts as we prosecute our challenges today yeah even even when you go back to your original question about you know competing you know competing in order to do what you know to deter to dissuade to you know change the adversary’s thinking um uh to on the other side to you know build allies and partners to you know shape the environment it all goes back to that cognitive dimension can you just can you outpace them and you constantly ensuring that you have the upper hand you have gained that over match in terms of you know the information environment i mean that that really is what we’re trying to get after here well um i’d like to transition the conversation just a little bit if i may and you know ask you about you know you know so you you dialogue frequently with uh with young marines you’ve done so your entire career as a leader of marines but you know what are the kinds of things that that you tell young marines today’s or it probably doesn’t even have to be specific to marines but what are the kinds of things that that you emphasize to young service members when it comes to what we need to do today in order to dominate the information environment yeah i i guess i would i would probably just say three quick things here john the the first is really for commanders is you know we we need to kind of demystify you know what it is that we’re talking about with information or ops in the information environment and and the way that i try to do that is to say look you know you’re you’re all familiar as commanders with you know um having to live on a forward operating base somewhere and having to think about avenues of approach and having to think about you know how you would defend that how you would apply your resources you know um to to um understanding how to see to that forward operating base the same is true in some of these other domains space you know or really cyber and so because because what you you need commanders to understand and ask the next question of their staffs about things like cyber key terrain things like are we properly defending those blue kill chains you know do your commons understand for example does your intel officer know all of the avenues of approach that an adversary might take to get after your kill chains and so um you know just trying to find easy ways to describe you know these new domains that we’re talking about i think on the just you know the young marine perspective you know the the way that i kind of try to describe where i think we are as a service is and this is not me this is you know general bill bowers you know he’s brilliant he’s he’s out at mci pack right now but we talk a lot about you know where we are in history and he talks he says ma’am in cyberspace you know this is our bellawood moment and i said bill what do you mean by that he said well you know in you know in 1912 1914 you know the the marine corps adopted the springfield rifle in 1908 and then and and decided then that every marine was going to be a rifleman right so that’s when we started you know doing you know you had to you had to uh qualify with the springfield at recruit training or you weren’t a marine and so then sure enough you know we take it to nicaragua and so forth but in bella wood it was the marines ability to hit at 500 yards what the germans couldn’t that really enabled that win and so so if here we are in 2021 and this is our bellawood moment in cyberspace what does that mean that we need to do now to teach marines about just basic the security of the network what their behavior online means what it doesn’t mean how to act professionally so what are those just basic skill sets of marksmanship if you will in the cyber domain i just think that’s really helpful perspective as we are right now thinking about how we educate you know the force um you know uh media literacy marines need to understand where they are working online what the world is happening to them you know i heard somebody say just this week that you know this whole idea of algorithmic warfare it can be benign or it can be maligned but it is happening right now and it is happening on your personal device or it’s happening you know elsewhere that you go so just giving the marines the basic skill set to know that this is happening i think is is really important because if we think that our adversaries are not going to come after the united states military and impact our will to fight we’re wrong it’s going to happen right right and i i commend to our listeners to go back and listen to an episode uh that we did with the army cyber institute a couple of researchers there talked about uh forced protection in the cognitive domain and uh even going all the way to the point of uh the the the will to fight at at a nation-state level and i think you when you’ve been mentioning uh algorithmic warfare uh that gets to that that slow creeping insidious um mindset shift that is possible not only within the military force but within the populace in general a lot of work to do in that area i think to just educate the force uh more deliberately on how all of this is working lori i’d i’d like to close uh if i may yeah we we’ve already talked about pme and some of the um some of the changes that are taking place out of necessity uh relative to this struggle that we find ourselves in but uh could could you perhaps recommend a a book or two that our audience might not be aware of which uh is maybe some of the the the go-to or the the things that are on your nightstand that uh are helpful to to understand the challenge that we’re dealing with i got a couple things going right now i mean look some of the basics i think certainly anything that peter singer you know uh is writing right now obviously like war um is is going to be a classic i i read also a book um that i thought was really good easy read it was called war and 140 characters it talks about how social media is is reshaping conflict and uh the author is uh i think he’s greek david uh patrick carricos is his name but he is he’s in the russia ukraine conflict talks a little bit about uh some of the things that israel did in social media but it’s just a really really good read to kind of wrap your brain around you know the impact of social media in modern conflict um simon sinek you know the infinite game uh that speaks to competition and how we how we think as military professionals about applying those kinds of um thoughts uh to campaigning um and and i just uh yesterday read a really good article that came out of the modern war institute i think they’re doing really good work up there called the shape of things to come and it was uh written by uh one of the professors up there carl wolfley but he talks about using soft power and the need to think more deliberately in some of our national um strategic documents about shaping and i think he’s spot on so those would be some things to start with all right well fantastic we will have links to all of those resources in the show notes and uh we wish you general reynolds godspeed as you and your marines prosecute this challenge and thank you so much for being on the cognitive crucible a lot of fun john thank you appreciate what you’re doing semper fi the cognitive crucible is the only podcast dedicated to increasing interdisciplinary collaboration between information operations practitioners scholars and policy makers to find out more about the information professionals association visit us at informationhyphenprofessionals.org please support our podcast by giving us a five-star rating and leaving a review
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#38 Reynolds on Operations in the Information Environment

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