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Cyber Officials Weigh Opportunities, Challenges

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 2013 – The joint information environment will define the future as the services move closer to a common foundation, Defense Information Systems Agency officials said during a panel discussion here yesterday.

The panel -- moderated by Anthony Montemarano, DISA’s director for strategic planning and information -- was part of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association’s monthly luncheon meeting for cyberdefense experts.

“It’s about bringing everyone together so that we have a common infrastructure to [develop] new technologies,” Montemarano said.

David Mihelcic, DISA’s chief technology officer and principal director for global information grid enterprise services engineering, said the agency will focus on Internet protocol, client server computing, cloud computing and the “spiral” family of software development processes, among other technologies.

“DISA has focused on leveraging leading-edge, but commercial, technologies and putting those together in a manner that supports the warfighters’ needs,” he said. “We have a long history of trying to bring capability to the warfighter securely.”

With most military and government agencies facing possible deep spending cuts, officials said, DISA and the Defense Department will continue to collaborate with industry to develop unified communications and mobility innovations in the face of shrinking information technology budgets.

“We’re not looking at trying to reinvent the wheel. We’re trying to exploit the best wheel out there,” Mihelcic said. “We’re not going to develop unique technologies, [so] we’re looking at industry to develop innovation that we can leverage.”

Whatever budget constraints may loom, he added, one aspect must not waver. “We cannot give up the security, the confidentiality or the pedigree of our data at the unclassified or classified levels,” he said.

From a cyberdefense perspective, Mark Orndorff, DISA’s program executive officer for mission assurance and network operations, said that while his agency and DOD have Web content filtering and log-on security capabilities, he’d like to further develop them.

“One of our primary efforts is to look across the existing infrastructure to better leverage those technologies,” Orndorff said.

Although areas such as mobility and cloud computing will create certain unavoidable gaps as technology matures, Orndorff said, training and minimizing duplication will be important in creating the optimal security architecture.

“A key piece of this is the cyber workforce and developing the right training, lab and range environments to fully develop [the right architecture],” Orndorff said.

That training, he explained, will help to ensure new technologies are developed with the best knowledge of the potential risks and outcomes.

“We need to test [the technology], validate it and make sure we aren’t going to do something that’ll leave us exposed,” he said. “But there are real benefits from an economic and cyberdefense effectiveness standpoint. As we build out the analytics, we’re moving into the open-source, ‘big-data’ environment, and we’re looking for solutions that will coexist in that big-data environment.”

Jennifer Carter, DISA’s component acquisition executive, said a common approach to security can improve processes and better enable long-range planning to stay current with technology and industry advances.

“The underlying fundamentals should have that core component available for the services to leverage,” she said. “We want to get the capabilities to the warfighters faster.”

Expediting certification and product validation will pave the way for DISA’s endeavors in cloud computing, with a focus on mobile technologies and network operations, Carter said.

“DISA has been designated the cloud broker for DOD, … [and] we’ll be looking at industry to develop interoperable technologies with an integrated suite of capabilities warfighters can access,” she added. 

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