Army should invest to protect commercial shipping, Guard colonel says

By Nickolai Sukharev / February 8, 2024 at 2:25 PM

The Army needs to protect the commercial shipping firms that help the service project forces overseas, according to a National Guard colonel.

“What can the total Army do now to keep those supply lines open in the future knowing that most likely cyber and information attacks are going to degrade [operations] and it’s cheap, quick and sometimes when you don’t feel it it’s not very tangible,” said Col. Kristine Henry, a projects officer for cyber and information operations at the Maryland National Guard.

Speaking Wednesday at an Association of the United States Army event on contested logistics in Arlington, VA, Henry stressed that cyberattacks that have disrupted commercial shipping operations in recent years can also disrupt the military’s reserve fleet of commercial vessels intended to be used during emergencies.

Henry added that the commercial shipping companies help the Army move people, vehicles and systems during overseas operations.

Speaking about the June 2017 NotPetya malware attack that temporarily shut down the shipping company Maersk, she added that disinformation can also cause physical disruptions, such as protesters delaying the departure of a supply vessel.

“This is a great example of the physical impacts of [malware], [misinformation] and disinformation that could affect the logistics enterprise,” she said.

Henry recommended the Army position cyber units to “work from the rear” to support frontline operations by investing secure spaces and protective data infrastructure within the country, which she added would make units more accessible.

She also stressed the importance of joint inter-agency task forces to help address cyber issues, adding the National Guard soldiers who work in the industry can help with more “formalized,” unified efforts.

“In the context of Contested Logistics, a JIATF-like structure including industry partners, particularly in the homeland, could leverage coordinated authorities to achieve ‘left of boom’ capability, response or even to counter cyber and Information attacks,” she added in an email following the event.

“During a peace-to-war transition, this model could enable organizations like the National Guard that have dual-status authorities to be able to deliver timely ‘Strategic Effects’ to Combatant Commanders.”