Cyber Symposium 2013 Online Show Daily, Day 2
The Joint Information Environment (JIE) took center stage during the second day of the AFCEA International Cyber Symposium in Baltimore. The conference devoted one full panel to the joint environment, but presenters throughout the day stressed the JIE’s importance to the future of the U.S. military and coalition partners, discussed some of the challenges to achieving the vision and vowed that the department will make it happen despite any remaining obstacles.
The JIE is not a program and does not have a budget, some presenters pointed out. It is, instead, a construct what will eventually consolidate all of the Defense Department’s networks into one single, global network, improving interoperability, increasing operational efficiency, enhancing situational awareness and ultimately saving costs.
The United States has been working with the so-called “five eye” nations—which also include Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom—to implement a Joint Information Environment capability, Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, U.S. Army director for command, control, communications and computers for the joint staff, told the audience. The five countries have agreed to share intelligence.
Gen. Bowman described the tactical end of JIE as the Mission Partner Environment. The Mission Partner Environment is essentially the same thing as the Afghan Future Network, which is the preferred terminology within NATO. “We’ve been working this hardest with the five eyes, and we have come up with a system that we’re using today so that we can exchange email and files from our national secret network to their national secret networks,” Gen. Bowman reported. “We just started that this past year. It’s a resounding success, it continues to grow, and we’re putting the rigor into it. That’s the way we need to run forward. We can’t be designing a new network.”
Gen. Bowman said U.S. officials abandoned the future mission network terminology because it is not the future—it is now. “The network already exists. We’re going to capitalize on what we have, so it’s a Mission Partner Environment,” he added.
Rear Adm. Marshall Lytle, USCG, director of command, control, communications and computers and chief information officer for U.S. Cyber Command, said the command is interested in the NIE for one simple reason—defensibility. “We view JIE as an operational imperative for the way we do business,” Adm. Lytle said. “The services rely on the Department of Defense Network and the Internet to train, maintain, transport, supply, coordinate, operate and maneuver in all of the war fighting domains.”
While the department has made great strides in protecting its networks, it still has work to do. “We still have a network made up of thousands of networks and enclaves with different configurations, different security policies, different operator training levels, and little centralized visibility to manage it in a consistent and secure fashion,” the admiral added. “The Defense Department network must be more defensible, and JIE is how we get there.”
Adm. Lytle described the technical and governance aspects of JIE as “fairly revolutionary” to the department and hard to accomplish. “However, we must get there to secure our network in the fast-moving threat environment we’re in today,” he insisted.
Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, U.S. Army chief information officer, said her passion about the JIE comes from her experience in the theater of operations while the U.S. was fighting in two major conflicts. “We had an incident in Pakistan. We had an earthquake and we had to turn the network upside down” to work with the various crisis response organizations, she said. Then, operating in Lebanon required putting “the network together with bailing wire and duct tape” to share information with Tel Aviv and Beirut, as well as the U.S. State Department. She declared that the department will not have time for that in the future. “We have to make sure we get to this Joint Information Environment faster so that we can maintain our combat dominance and the safety of our soldiers who are on point for us,” she said.
Anthony Valletta, an independent consultant who once served as the acting assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, explained that JIE includes five major tenets. They are network normalization, which reduces tens of thousands of legacy applications; consolidation of more than 2,000 data centers across the Defense Department; a single method of identity and access management, which is key to controlling network access; enterprise services in the cloud; and a single, department-wide governance policy. He described those five tenants as the DNA of the JIE construct.
Gen. Lawrence said the department is in phase one of implementing the JIE. It started with the European and African commands, and now Pacific Command is volunteering to participate in the second phase and is next in line.
She added that a number of cyber teams have been established and include network experts with intelligence, electronic warfare and information operations experts all working together. “We’re getting ready to stand up now, within the next year, 13 more of those teams. They will be able to go from looking at the security of the network to active hunting on the network. They can see and hunt and find and fix and kill,” she said, whereas before, the networks were an “absolute sieve.”
Earlier in the day, Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins Jr., USAF, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), told the audience that the department has been moving toward the JIE for some time. For example, DISA is consolidating data centers from 194 to about 12 and is transitioning various elements of the department to an enterprise email system. “In fact, at the end of this week, we’re going to be meeting [with the Office of the Secretary of Defense] to begin their migration to the enterprise email. It is working. It is very much a part of everything that we do,” Gen. Hawkins reported.