TRAINING AND SIMULATION

I/ITSEC NEWS: U.S. Cyber Command Eyes Upgrades to Training System

12/2/2021
By Yasmin Tadjdeh
Persistent Cyber Training Environment

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ORLANDO, Fla. — U.S. Cyber Command is upgrading and improving its training apparatus as it continues to develop its Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture, officials said Dec. 2.

The architecture is envisioned as a suite of capabilities to support cyberspace operations. It is essentially a “series of weapon systems that we use to actually execute our combat operations,” said Steven Rehn, chief technology officer at U.S. Army Cyber Command and director of the Army Cyber Technical Warfare Center, during a panel discussion at the National Training and Simulation Association's annual Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in Orlando, Florida. NTSA is an affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association.

The Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture has six components, including joint cyber command-and-control, sensors, a unified platform, tools, access and the persistent cyber training environment.

The persistent cyber training environment, or PCTE, "is a remarkable capability, and it has put us leaps and bounds in the training world from where we were,” said Coast Guard Rear Adm. Christopher Bartz, chief of exercises and training at U.S. Cyber Command.

The system is a cyber range that offers unique capabilities that most cyber ranges don't have, he noted. For example, users can expediently deploy networks and also share data and content.

“That is really coming in handy, that shareable content piece,” Bartz said. 

PCTE is being largely used for collective training or team training missions, ranging from major headquarters exercises to small team certifications, he said. 

The training environment is only a few years old, said Army Col. Corey Hemingway, project manager for cyber, test and training. Several prototypes were quickly released initially, and Cyber Command now has its fourth version of the platform.

“We are spinning out capabilities at least twice a year,” he said. “This program is agile, … [and it] continues to expand and the utilization continues to increase over time.”

Originally, it was estimated that only 6,000 users would employ the PCTE, Hemingway said. However, there are currently around 9,000 users.

"We see the demand signal for the infrastructure to continue to increase significantly,” he said. The hope is that the training environment could eventually be used by the military’s entire cyber workforce, he added.

The platform will need to continue to grow over time, Hemingway noted. The first version was “completely different” than the latest iteration of the system.

Cyber Command is also interested in developing a future learning management system, Bartz noted.

“Right now, we don't have a way to track that progression from accession through qualification through execution mission rehearsal,” he said.

Additionally, officials want capabilities to help them better understand and assess readiness, Hemingway said.

“There's a lot of data that's going to be out there,” he said. “I need to be able to pull that together so then I can have a good visualization tool to understand ... what things we need to do to help that person and the command or the unit to improve on.”

Meanwhile, there is a great deal of interest in the persistent cyber training environment among Five Eyes nations, Bartz said. Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance made up of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“We have a written agreement with Australia, where they are actually going to acquire a PCTE as their training solution,” he said. We have a verbal agreement with the U.K., and then we're in talks with Canada as well. So, there's a lot of potential for PCTE.”

Topics: Training and Simulation