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CIO Priorities Include Cybersecurity, Innovation, Retaining IT Workforce

By Cheryl Pellerin DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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WASHINGTON, March 23, 2016 — Information technology and cyber program priorities for the Defense Department’s chief information officer include modernizing DoD networks, improving cybersecurity and building the IT workforce, Terry Halvorsen said yesterday.

The DoD CIO testified on the IT budget request for fiscal year 2017 before the House Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee. He was joined by Peter Levine, the department’s deputy chief management officer.

Halvorsen gave an overview of the DoD IT and cyber program budget, highlighted priorities and described some of the ways his office is moving forward in today’s dynamic environment.

Cyber/IT Budget

In his written testimony, Halvorsen said the total 2017 IT budget request is $38.2 billion, which includes $6.8 billion for DoD cyber operations.

“The FY2017 cyberspace request represents a $900 million increase from the FY2016 enacted cyberspace budget,” Halvorsen added, “and represents increases for our cyber mission forces and other defensive and offensive cyberspace activities.”

The investment, he said, will further network defenses, build more training ranges for DoD cyber warriors, and develop the cyber tools and infrastructure needed to provide the full range of cyber options for managing conflict escalation.

Describing major challenges in this year's budget request, Halvorsen and Levine both said the biggest problem was “not enough money.”

Halvorsen said that as a result the department is taking some risk in modernization.

“Some of it will slow,” he said, “[but] we're trying to balance that and make sure we don't take that risk on the security side.”

Attracting Talent

Another challenge will be retaining the IT workforce, the CIO said, noting that fixing the challenge will come down to a decision based on economics.

“I happened to be in the [Silicon] Valley last week and Google announced that they're raising the pay for cybersecurity by another 20 percent. That's going to keep impacting our ability to attract talent,” Halvorsen said.

“If you ask me about what keeps me up at night,” he added, “that's probably the answer.”

People also are involved in how the department innovates, Halvorsen told the panel.

“Much of the innovation today in the cyber and IT business is coming from the commercial sector. We want closer ties to the commercial sector,” he said.

People and Innovation

Thanks to legislation passed last year Halvorsen said he was able to invite people from industry to work at the Pentagon for short periods of time, and to send DoD civilians to work in industry to learn and share best practices for short periods of time.

“That partnership, which we continue to strengthen, is a key to us getting the right innovation,” the CIO added.

“You can really see the career path in cyber/IT changing so that it's not an all-civilian or all-government career path but a much more combined career path. I think that would serve the nation well,” Halvorsen told the panel.

IT Priorities

On IT priorities for 2017, the CIO said these include modernizing DoD networks, improving information sharing with mission partners, improving DoD cybersecurity, consolidating data centers and leveraging cloud technology, and empowering mobile data access.

The concept of modernizing and integrating DoD networks and systems is called the Joint Information Environment, or JIE, he said in written testimony. Its framework is made up of discrete but related elements that are integrated to more securely provide IT capabilities such as computing and information storage, transfer and sharing.

DoD’s top technical priority for enabling the JIE is called the Joint Regional Security Stacks, or JRSS.

He said this regionally based, centrally managed suite of security appliances will simplify and secure a now vast and disparate environment and significantly reduce the department’s “attack surface” to fewer than 50 points on the network.

“JRSS provides the baseline for a more-coherent, singular security architecture for DoD’s cyber defenders,” Halvorsen said.

Mission Partners, Mission Impact

Other priorities include:

--  Working to implement a commercially based, robust capability called the Mission Partner Environment–Information System to support combatant commanders’ need to securely share information with mission partners, and

--  Improving DoD cybersecurity by improving human performance and accountability through a prioritized list of cyber efforts documented in the Cybersecurity Discipline Implementation Plan, which provides a roadmap for aggressively eliminating cyber vulnerabilities.

Halvorsen said the mission and operational impact of DoD portfolio issues like information sharing, cybersecurity, spectrum management and others are critical in today’s strategic environment.

“The role of the CIO in government and industry will continue to evolve,” he said, “and I believe that role will become even more critical as cyber/IT continues to play an increasingly important role in almost every aspect of our lives.”

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)