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DOD Leaders Highlight Talent, Technology in Cybersecurity Strategy

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Any failure to take the cyber threat seriously puts military missions at risk, and it compromises defense industrial partners and critical U.S. infrastructure, a senior defense official told the audience during a panel discussion at the Cybersecurity Summit in Washington.

"Cybersecurity is a warfighting issue. It's not a 'nice-to-have' capability," said John Garstka, senior analyst in DOD’s Directorate for Communications and Networks Programs and Policy for Command, Control, Communications, Space and Spectrum, adding that the Defense Department takes cybersecurity seriously.

Man and woman interact, seated at table.
Cyber Review
Soldiers assigned to the 335th Signal Command (Theater), Training and Operations, review information needed to support Cyber X-Games 2019, the annual cyber training event sponsored by the Army Reserve Cyber Operations Group, at Moffett Field, Calif., June 15, 2019.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Erick Yates
VIRIN: 190615-A-RN359-003A

The panelists at today's discussion provided an overview of their cybersecurity strategy that included research and development into new technologies such as artificial intelligence and growing a talented workforce.

Monica Montgomery, chief for risk management in the Office of Cybersecurity at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, said that "as humans, people will make mistakes." Once that is acknowledged, she added, automated processes need to be put into place to augment human capability so that breaches can quickly be identified and corrected.

The automated processes to which she referred include AI and machine learning.

Garstka said predictive data analytics could help the Defense Department to better understand its industrial supply chain and where vulnerabilities exist. To test vulnerabilities in the department’s warfighting capabilities, Garstka said, incorporating cyber into rigorous wargaming at the combatant command level has been shown to be very effective.

Man speaks in front of audience.
Cyber Conference
Cadets from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., listen to a presentation on “Demystifying Blockchain: Practical Use-Cases of KSI Technology” during the International Conference on Cyber Conflict in Tallinn, Estonia, July 1, 2019.
Photo By: Brandon O’Connor, Army
VIRIN: 190701-A-QG670-1003A

Jason Martin, vice director of the Development and Business Center and acting director of the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Cyber Development Directorate, said a number of innovative tools are available that need to be identified and shared across the department and with other federal organizations.

Regarding talent management, Montgomery said NGA seeks a broad spectrum of talent for its cyber workforce. Once they’re hired, she said, NGA allows its people to move around within the organization to broaden their talent, make work more interesting and "not get stuck in a hole."

People work at a table work on laptops.
Cyber Ops
Military teams compete in offensive and defensive cyber operations during the 2019 24th Air Force Cyber Competition in San Antonio, Texas, June 6, 2019.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. R.J. Biermann
VIRIN: 190606-F-ND912-0034A

Martin said he's never denied anyone a transfer and agrees that allowing people to move around allows them to grow and share information with their new teams. "We rotate as many people as possible to grow cross-capabilities," he said.

In the effort to bring new talent into DOD, Martin said, college campuses are a great place to recruit people. Next week, he said, he'll be attending a cyber challenge at a college campus.

Once students are aware that DOD cyber is a "cool and important mission," he said, they are much more likely to sign up.

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