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Necessity Drives Joint Information Environment

July 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman
E-mail About the Author

Innovation lies at the heart of solutions to JIE challenges.

  • Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr., USAF (l), director, Defense Information Systems Agency, and Lt. Gen. Mark S. Bowman, J-6, The Joint Staff, offer presentations at the JIE Mission Partner Symposium.
     Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr., USAF (l), director, Defense Information Systems Agency, and Lt. Gen. Mark S. Bowman, J-6, The Joint Staff, offer presentations at the JIE Mission Partner Symposium.

The shrinking military cannot achieve mission success without the advances promised by the Joint Information Environment, U.S. Defense Department leaders say. Yet the effort itself depends on innovative advances that may lead to changes in doctrine and operations if—and when—they are incorporated into the force.

No clear technology or architecture has emerged to define the JIE. While the military has a goal in mind, it also recognizes that information technologies and capabilities are evolving faster than planners can predict. The commercial sector, which could serve as a fount of ideas for defense networking, itself is structuring its strategies to accommodate unforeseen changes. Different parts of the defense and intelligence communities have their own nonnegotiable requirements for JIE participation.

Different organizations and disciplines strive to break down silos and give the Defense Department its JIE. Leading defense communicators agree that the force cannot prevail in future operations without a single information environment, but they must ensure that it does not ignore the specific needs of some individual elements within the defense community.

Many of these issues were discussed at AFCEA’s three-day JIE Mission Partner Symposium held May 12-14 in Baltimore. Overflow crowds heard speakers and panelists from government, the military and industry discuss the need for the JIE and the challenges that stand in the way of its implementation.

U.S. military forces will not be able to pursue operational goals successfully unless the JIE is implemented, according to a member of the Joint Staff. Lt. Gen. Mark S. Bowman, J-6, The Joint Staff, was unambiguous in his assessment of the JIE’s importance.

“JIE is absolutely necessary for every future operation—and it doesn’t matter what that operation is,” Gen. Bowman declared. He elaborated that whether forces are warfighting or just training, the JIE will be the key enabler for success.

Gen. Bowman continued that previous efforts at a JIE began but fell by the wayside. That cannot be allowed to happen again.

“We had a requirement to have a JIE 10 years ago, and we … missed it,” he said.

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) is a key player in the JIE effort, and its director forecast significant changes in the way the military exploits information technology. Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr., USAF, said the defense community must break with the past in digital information technology.

“The wave of the future is in collaboration and social networking, and we have to get there,” Gen. Hawkins declared. “The people who are coming into DOD [the Defense Department] don’t do email. We have to get off of it.”

Gen. Hawkins asked for industry’s help in moving more forcefully into the digital future. “Help us change the rules that are out there now. You know as I do that some of them are archaic,” he said of the current information technology rules.

Security will be enhanced by the JIE architecture, which will help reduce a number of vulnerabilities. Gen. Hawkins explained that the move to the cloud will enable better security and prevent the traditional insider threat from menacing valuable data.

“Private Manning and Snowden have accentuated the need to pay attention to the insider threat,” Gen. Hawkins said of the two recent leakers of classified information. In a media round table after his address, the general pointed out that DISA was tasked with looking at the insider threat, and the JIE allows it to do that.

The JIE will emphasize securing data instead of the environment, he told the luncheon audience. “Even though we have global threats, we want to be able to move data wherever we need it,” he offered, adding that DISA wants to focus on data at rest as well as in transit.

A new slant on cybersecurity was offered by Lars Buttler, managing director, Madison Sandhill Global LLC. He suggested the Defense Department should stop viewing hackers as adversaries and consider recruiting some for information operations.

“All hackers are gamers,” Buttler stated in a panel discussion. “Why make every hacker an enemy? There are many people who would help find breaches on our side—if only we would just treat them better.”

Buttler added that hackers might appreciate a different type of reward from the military. “The reward does not have to be monetary,” he offered. “It could be standing in the community.”

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