What Is The Difference Between An Information Warfare Officer And An Information Systems Technician?

Countries around the world have begun to use digital equipment for warfare. This ranges from satellite surveillance systems to dedicated agencies that include the United States Cyber Command that is fully equipped with hundreds of professionals manning computers on a year-round basis in order to prevent a cyber attack.

 Some of the professionals who protect the U.S. from digital threats are information warfare officers and information system technicians. Although they are important members of U.S. cyber security efforts, there are several noticeable differences in the way that they provide protection for the U.S.

An Important Role

An information warfare officer plays a vital role in U.S. cyber security efforts. Computer network operations, electronic warfare, military deception, operations security and psychological operations are some of the things that these experts routinely employ to influence any form of adversarial decision making while protecting their own unit’s capabilities.

They are also involved in many aspects of U.S. military operations. Because of this, they are deployed worldwide to support the U.S. armed forces and their capability for joint war-fighting. At the same time, they provide important information for national, theater and tactical-level decision makers.

A Wide Range of Tools

Information warfare officers also have the responsibility to deliver comprehensive information security that supports their respective unit’s command objectives. This is achieved with signals intelligence and information operations expertise.

Their line of work also involves defending, exploiting and attacking networks in order to capitalize on any sort of vulnerabilities found in the information environment. Through this, they ultimately provide planners, policy makers and war fighters with offensive opportunities, real-time warnings and a constant operational advantage.

Important Training

The majority of prospective information warfare officers attend OCS or Officer Candidate School. This training course will provide them with a working knowledge of the particular branch of U.S. military where they are assigned. It will also help them handle the responsibilities involved in being a U.S. military officer. Their training involves academic courses, military inspections and thorough memorization of military knowledge.

Physical training will also play a large role in their program. This includes aquatic, calisthenics and running. After they have completed their OCS training, they will attend an eleven-week Information Warfare Basic Course. This program teaches the fundamentals of information warfare and includes the following.

·         Computer Networks
·         SIGINT Reporting
·         Collection Management
·         Signal Collection Operations
·         Satellite Fundamentals
·         Electromagnetic Theory
·         Introduction to Security
·         RADAR
·         Traffic Analysis
·         Information Operations

These programs provide the important skills that people need to perform cryptologic operations both in the U.S. and overseas. Upon graduation, they will be assigned to one of the four National Cryptologic Centers. There, an information warfare officer will gain management and leadership experience.

Fruits of Labor

Attending OCS is very important. This is because an Information Warfare Officer is a leader in the IDC or Information Dominance Corps. This is a group of highly-trained information experts who are fully integrated across cyberspace, air, space and surface domains.

With shared resources, capabilities and functions, IDC members use their knowledge to maximize the use of control systems, network communications, weapons and sensors along with optimizing decision making for war fighting and security. They also have an important task of delivering vital information to decision makers through exploiting, defending and attacking networks. This helps them to take advantage of vulnerabilities found in the information domain.

The Grunts

An information system technician is a rating in the United States Coast Guard and the United States Navy. These professionals specialize in communications technology. They are primarily in charge of maintaining the U.S. Navy’s mainframe computers, wide and local area networks, global satellite telecommunication systems and the fleet’s micro-computer systems.

Aside from that, information system technicians provide administrative support through the use of automated equipment that helps them keep records of disbursements, personnel training, assignments, health and promotions within the Navy. They also ensure that all communication links between U.S. naval stations ashore and units at sea are in perfect working order.

Working Environment

An information system technician usually works in an air-conditioned and clean computer room or electronic equipment space. They often perform their work as a member of a team. However, they may also work on individual projects.

The majority of their work is problem solving and mental analysis. These technicians are often stationed primarily aboard deploying ships. FTS or full time support information technicians are assigned aboard a Naval Reserve Force ships involved in local operations.


An information system technician candidate will attend “A” school that last 96 days at Corry Station located in Pensacola, Florida. The program is teacher-led with the use of a computer-based learning system. At the same time, an information system technician will share classes with members of other U.S. armed forces services. This includes Army computer systems operators and Marine radiomen.

After they have completed their “A school training, Navy information system technicians are placed on shore stations, ships and communication stations that are located across the United states and overseas. At the same time, an FTS information system technician is assigned to an NRF ship in CONUS. FTS ITs will be assigned to reserve centers located across the U.S. While assigned there, they will oversee the administration and training of selected reserve personnel.

Warfare Qualifications

There are a lot of community-specific IDC or Information Dominance Corps warfare qualifications for an information system technician. Unlike information warfare officers, their ratings can qualify them to be part of every aspect of naval warfare that includes the following.

·         Aircrew

As a naval aircrew, an information systems technician has a primary responsibility to troubleshoot, maintain and operate cryptographic systems, networking, antennas, computers and radio equipment in Airborne Early Warning and Control System or AWACS and Take Charge and Move Out or TACOMO Missions.

·         Surface Warfare

In surface warfare, these professionals are responsible for troubleshooting, computer and radio equipment, cryptographic equipment and satellite communications along with the maintenance of communication links. They are also responsible for the administration of WAN and LAN links along with the networking equipment and servers found on board a U.S. Navy ship.

·         Fleet Marine Force

As a member of the Fleet Marine Force, they are responsible for landing after U.S. Marines have secured an area to establish fleet networking, communications and cryptographic equipment. This is done primarily in order to provide adequate support for joint communications located within a battlefield condition. This also includes configuring Defense Message System, AUTODIB and JWICS communication in order for U.S. combatants to maintain command communications.

Important Roles

Although they have different roles and responsibilities, both of these rankings have important functions within the U.S. military. Without them, gaining an advantage on the battlefield through the use of digital equipment is nearly impossible. At the same time, their contribution could be the main difference between winning or losing a battle.