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DOD Aims to Improve Network Security, Leverage New Technologies

The Defense Information Systems Agency and the Department of Defense Information Network are looking for ways to repurpose cutting-edge technology like artificial intelligence; development, security and operations; and zero-trust assets to protect the Defense Department's global network, the director of those organizations said.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, DISA director and commander of the Joint Force Headquarters-DODIN, told attendees of this year's TechNet Cyber conference that DISA is currently going through some new structural developments.


DISA is restructuring its organization to more functionally align with the DOD warfighting functions to provide more capabilities, Skinner said.

"We've got to be more agile and more capable against the strategic threat …, and the strategic threat is China," he said.

DISA will also become more aligned with the Joint Staff and combatant commands, he said.

An airman sits on a storage container as he works on a laptop.
Radio Frequency
Air Force Senior Airman Brad Proffit, a radio frequency transmissions operator based in Charlotte, N.C., calibrates equipment used for secure network access and communications in remote locations during Exercise Southern Strike 2023 in Gulfport, Miss., April 17, 2023. Proffit is with the 263rd Combat Communications Squadron, 145th Airlift Wing.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Emily Batchelor
VIRIN: 230418-Z-JL079-4006C

Air Force Col. Jennifer Carns, Future Operations Division, Joint Forces Headquarters-DODIN at Fort Meade, Maryland, gave an analogy to what DODIN is up against in protecting its network.

Some homes have everything — including computers, telephones, refrigerators and security alarms — connected to a central hub.

"A simple change to a device can change the network and have far reaching effects and impact everything else in that home network," she said, meaning hackers and other malicious actors can compromise that home network.

These types of bad actors are continually working to seek ways to compromise DOD's networks, she said.

Trucks roll down a snowy highway.
Joint Light Tactical Vehicles
Personnel drive network-enabled Joint Light Tactical Vehicles as part of training operations at Fort McCoy, Wis., April 18, 2023.
Photo By: Scott T. Sturkol, Army
VIRIN: 230418-A-OK556-566C

"Unlike other domains, cyberspace is not constrained to geographic boundaries. We need to be on top of our game and focus on cybersecurity all the time. There's no time off when it comes to defending our networks," Carns said.

The DODIN is the foundational platform for every military operation in the cyber domain. It's a fast-paced environment where persistent engagement is required, she said.

Among its tasks are increasing shared situational awareness and collaboration, enforcing cybersecurity standards, hardening networks, working with allies and partners, advancing defensive capabilities, modernizing critical systems, and optimizing operations, Carns said.

Two service members look at computer screens.
Cyber Monitors
Airman 1st Class Gerald Mack, a cyber operator with 175th Cyber Operations in the Maryland Air National Guard, monitors cyberattacks during Exercise Southern Strike at Camp Shelby, Miss., April 21, 2023.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Renee Seruntine, Army National Guard
VIRIN: 230421-Z-GQ603-1523Y

DISA manages a global network with a workforce of about 19,000 service members, civilians and contractors who plan, develop, deliver and operate joint, interoperable command-and-control capabilities and defend an enterprise infrastructure in more than 42 countries.

This mission directly supports the president, secretary of defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, combatant commanders, DOD components, and other mission partners across the spectrum of competition, combat and combat-support operations.

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