The US Army Program Manager for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) again expanded its cyber training capabilities on 20 August when it celebrated the formal opening of the new Cyber Center of Excellence, more formally known as headquarters of the Product Manager for Cyber Resiliency & Training Office. The facility is the Partnership V Building, located in Orlando’s Research Park next to the University of Central Florida (UCF).

Participating in the ceremony were PEO STRI Program Executive Officer BG Michael Sloane, UCF President Thaddeus Seymour, and US House of Representatives Stephanie Murphy (D-7th District). Also addressing the audience was UCF Board of Trustees Chair Beverly Seay. Both Seymour and Seay outlined the vital partnership between the university, the US Department of Defense (DoD) and the major US military training commands headquartered in Research Park, including PEO STRI. This partnership, which includes the State of Florida, has led to the creation of the now five Partnership Buildings in Research Park that house components of Army, Navy and Air Force commands and organizations. 

Cyber Readiness Concerns

Sloane said that in addition to providing readiness for high-intensity combat situations, the US must prepare for electronic warfare and cyber warfare, not only in the country but around the world. While recently visiting every global US Combatant Command, he pointed out that, in meeting with the leadership of countries in the regions, every senior leader asked him how they could protect against cyber warfare. 

“They are afraid of cyber warfare, and they don’t know how to protect against it and have nowhere near the resources that we have,” Sloane emphasized. “We need to help protect our partner nations as a second tier of defense.  Industry is also looking to us to help resolve the cyber threat as well. This installation in Central Florida is a part of the solution not only for the US Services, but for our nation as well.”

UCF: “Essential Fabric”

In addition to partnering with PEO STRI in the development of Partnership V, UCF will also be supporting its own cyber programs as well, Seymour said. He told the audience that the university has been building its cyber capabilities, including a Cyber Securities initiative. Seay said that UCF recognizes that cyber security is of increasing importance in the country’s national security.

“We also know that we are facing a shortage of graduates in computer science and cyber security, along with researchers and talent for the job,” Seay pointed out. “So more and more of our students are entering the computer science curriculum. UCF is a national Center of Excellence in computer science and excellence in cyber certification.  We must produce leaders in cyber security and artificial intelligence in creating the essential fabric of the digital world.” 

Attack on Society

Once all of the PEO STRI cyber initiatives are underway in Partnership V, they will provide a critical cyber node for training around the world, Murphy said. She pointed out that PEO STRI currently has the only cyber training environment in the country.

“There is never a more critical moment for this movement to be going forward,” Murphy emphasized. “I agree with General Sloane that we are under constant cyber attack, whether it is on our election system, our critical infrastructure or our military or businesses.  It requires a whole of our society approach to meet this challenge, not just government and the military. But PEO STRI and this partnership will take this challenge to a whole new level.”

Sloane sought to remind those involved in helping meet the cyber threat not to ever feel that such a threat might damage only a part of the country’s infrastructure. “This is an existential threat as to who we are as a community and to our democracy,” he concluded.

Cyber Mission

According to PEO STRI Cyber Resiliency and Training Product Manager LTC Thomas Monaghan, Jr., the partnership concept goes beyond the Army and UCF, since his organization works with virtually all of the country’s military cyber organizations, including the Army’s Cyber Command and the US Cyber Command.  He said that these major organizations get together almost on a monthly basis to discuss requirements, funding and resources, output and throughput to determine “what has been done well and what needs to be done.”

PEO STRI stood up the Product Manager, Cyber Resiliency and Training team to focus on the Army’s Persistent Cyber Training Environment (PCTE). At full operational capability, the PCTE will be a hybrid cloud-based training platform providing individual sustainment training, team certification and the foundation for a collective training environment

The new Cyber Center of Excellence is yet another element of the Army’s effort in Orlando to help mitigate the cyber warfare challenge. PEO STRI is the Department of Defense’s Acquisition Lead agent in the National Cyber Range and in expanding Cyber Ranges across the country. The National Cyber Range program staff and program will also be located in the new Partnership V Building. This program is planned to support other US services in their cyber programs, as well as the Army. National Cyber Ranges provide advanced cyber research and development of new capabilities, analysis of malware, cyber training and exercises, and secure cloud computing and storage architectures. 

For more about PEO STRI’s cyber efforts, read Robert W. Moorman’s “A Platform for Cyber Mission Training” from MS&T magazine Issue 2019-1 and other news items on MS&T.

- Chuck Weirauch