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Access to Actionable Data Key to Future Fight

Aug. 12, 2020 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

The next adversarial confrontation will begin in the digital world of the space and cyberspace domains, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Personnel working in those domains will "become the front line of the fight," Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten said during today's chief information officer global town hall meeting via commercial virtual remote. The event was attended by cybersecurity and information technology personnel from across the Defense Department.

Man operates computer.
Computer Work
Army Spc. Carlos Cirano, a security analyst assigned to the North Carolina National Guard Cyber Security Response Force, conducts cyber operations at a city of Roxboro Facility in Roxboro, N.C., June 18, 2020.
Photo By: Robert Jordan, Army
VIRIN: 200618-Z-OU450-0129M

"It's critical that we look at that structure as a warfighting problem, and that's what the CIO is doing now, so that's tremendous," Hyten said.

The CIO has been effectively partnering with the joint community, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and other elements within the Pentagon, he said. "Because of that, we're in a much better position," he continued. "It's going to be critically important that we work together to define the future of the digital world."

In the past, preparing for battle meant drawing lines of responsibility for the air component, maritime component, land component and allies and partners component, he explained. "Then we figured out how all those things are going to come together," the vice chairman said. 

"In the battlefield of the future, the biggest thing that changes is there are no lines anymore," he said, explaining that Army, Navy, Air Force and partner assets will be used to support each other rather than operating separately.

A soldier addresses a panel.
Panel Photo
Army Staff Sgt. Taylor, a satellite network planner with the Satellite Operations Brigade at Wheeler Army Airfield, Hawaii, virtually addresses a board of six command sergeants major at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., during the command’s Best Warrior Competition, June 30, 2020.
Photo By: Dottie White, Army
VIRIN: 200630-A-RK500-620M

"If you can do that all at the same time, then the adversary has no idea where the next strike is coming from, and you've then created a problem for the adversary that is so significant they will not risk attacking you," Hyten said.

But in order for that to happen, the key becomes the data, he said. The data has to be able to work. Every sensor on the battlefield, every sensor in space, every sensor on the ground has to be able to take the data and feed it into a common environment.

That common environment then has to be able to take the data and provide it to anybody who needs that element of the data, he said. Each component commander will have the ability to access this data. 

"When they access the data and pull that information out, then we have to figure out how to command and control it, so we can de-conflict the fire from one element to the other, he said. "When that happens, everything changes, and our adversary will not be able to keep up. That's the ultimate deterrent."

Everything is about the data, he reiterated.

Marine works on a computer network.
Gear Check
Marine Corps Cpl. Elijah Soper, a network administrator with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Southern Command, conducts a gear check at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, Aug. 5, 2020.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Andy O. Martinez
VIRIN: 200805-M-MI258-1012M

"We have to be able to build software quickly and reliably and adjust it quickly," he continued. "We have to be able to manage the entire digital infrastructure that we're going through. That's all true, but when it comes down to the basics, it's all about the data."

Hyten congratulated a sergeant who became the 1 millionth user of CVR. He called CVR "a game changer," adding that he expects it will be utilized even after the COVID-19 pandemic as an efficient communications tool across the department.

The use of the virtual private network during the pandemic has also increased from 49,000 before the pandemic to over 440,000, he said.

The pandemic has also not halted modernization and reform efforts relating to artificial intelligence, 5G network advances, cybersecurity, data centers efficiency measures and migration to cloud computing, he said.