Military, intelligence leaders discuss challenges at TechNet Cyber 2019

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is acquiring an array of cutting-edge technologies using rapid development processes and could begin fielding some of those technologies within the next two years.

Vice Adm. Nancy Norton, USN, director, DISA, and commander, Joint Force Headquarters Department of Defense Information Network (JFHQ-DODIN), noted at the TechNet Cyber 2019 conference in Baltimore that the agency is increasing its focus on innovation through the use of other transactional authorities. AFCEA International coordinates and hosts the event.

Adm. Norton told reporters that she and other DISA officials are actively working to improve DISA’s acquisition processes. “To do that, we have worked with our program managers and program officers to improve communications across the board, improving the transparency with our industry partners to help them understand more about our mission, our goals, our capability gaps … so that they can deliver the right things so that we have the solutions we need for our warfighting mission,” she said.

Part of the agency’s motivation, according to Stephen Wallace, DISA’s systems innovation scientist with the Emerging Technology Directorate, is to influence industry’s innovative solutions. “It’s a number of prototypes. The ones you’re seeing right now are fairly exploratory, but it’s to influence the commercial world, so it will show up in products that we can then, down the line, acquire and integrate into our solutions going forward,” he said. “We’re not decades [away]. We’re also not a couple of months from now. We’re probably in the one- to two-year timeframe when we start to see some of those things show up regularly.”

Gen. Paul Nakasone, USA, director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command, and Dana Deasy, CIO, U.S. Defense Department, who also spoke at the conference, both stressed the importance of data during missions.

Gen. Nakasone indicated that data might need to be considered during operational planning. “We have to ensure that we understand how we apply nonkinetic power in a way we haven’t done before. We’re very, very familiar with understanding the planning process that goes to kinetic operations. Nonkinetic operations, I would say, are sometimes as important,” he said.

“When we look at our military planning process, we identify named areas of interest and targeted areas of interest. Data could well be one of those named areas of interest that we have to have to focus on, that we have to watch, that we have to have an understanding of how it’s changing,” he added.

Deasy agreed, suggesting that data become a part of cadet training. He said he tells the secretaries of the military services to show him the curriculum that teaches young cadets about the importance of data and how it can be used offensively and defensively. “There’s a lot more we could be doing there,” Deasy related. “This is a really big opportunity. We need to start introducing new skill sets to people who are very young coming in.”

Jeffrey Jones, executive director, JFHQ-DODIN, stressed data as the number one challenge. “We have a tremendous amount of data. We have access to a less than optimal portion of that data.”

Jones compared tables in the convention hall to data links on the DODIN, none of which look the same. “We have to be able to access that data that is completely unstructured. None of it looks the same. It is difficult to really take a big-picture look and run some big data analytics on that to give us the state of the DODIN,” he said. “If data is out there, we want access to the data that we want when we want it. If we have to wait days to access the data, that’s of no help to us.”

Additional speakers at the conference included Tony Montemarano, executive deputy director, DISA; Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, USA, CIO/G-6, U.S. Army; Matthew Gaston, director of the Emerging Technology Center, Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Mellon University; and Fletcher Previn, CIO, IBM Corporation.

Source: AFCEA International