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Military and Industry Seek Cyber Solutions

June 2012
By George I. Seffers, SIGNAL Magazine
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Brig. Gen. David Coffman, USMC, former commander of the 13th Expeditionary Unit who currently is assigned to the National Military Command Center, prepares for a presentation in March at the AFCEA TechNet Land Warfare Southwest Conference in Tucson, Arizona.

Growing military reliance on data presents challenges.

U.S. military land forces increasingly rely on networks, data and a secure cyberspace to accomplish virtually every mission, including combat, humanitarian and peacetime duties. That reliance, however, comes with a wide array of challenges, changes and adjustments as forces continually transition to the next new technology. Military and industry experts gathered at the TechNet Land Forces conference in Tucson, Arizona, in late March to search for solutions that make the transitions smoother.

One of those transitions includes the U.S. Army’s migration to the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Enterprise Email, an evolution expected to be complete in 2013. The program has suffered some setbacks as Congress has questioned its value. Mike Krieger, deputy chief information officer (CIO) for the U.S. Army, told the audience he had hoped to publish the required report to Congress in time for the conference but was unable. The service leadership followed through shortly afterward, though, publishing the report on the CIO’s website. Overall, the report says, Enterprise Email enhances centralization and eliminates disparate systems, supporting the service’s business transformation plan. Additionally, the report states, Enterprise Email will improve the service’s security posture, enable hardware and software standardization, improve configuration control and centralize administration and support while enhancing financial transparency.

Krieger also reported discovering on the morning of his conference appearance that the current email system did not work as promised for one of the Army’s top officials. Fortunately, the problem quickly was resolved. “Or, I might not be here,” he joked.

The Army also is evolving its business practices through the Army Baseline Information Technology Services (ABITS) strategy for service management, reported Brig. Gen. Frederick Henry, USA, deputy commanding general of the Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM).

ABITS breaks down customer services into two categories: user and organizational. User services include standard and priority users, who will receive the same types of services—voice, desktop, email, access to network and applications—but with different response and resolution times.

One conference attendee who is closely involved with ABITS described several challenges with the effort, including many military officials and high-ranking civilians who believe they should have priority status. There are simply too many for them all to be considered priorities, especially because the ABIS implementation staff is very small. Still, the attendee responded favorably to what was being presented at the conference.

Another transition discussed at the conference involves an evolution of the U.S. Marine Corps intelligence community. The Marines are establishing a governance council of colonels who will make some of the acquisition decisions normally made at the general officer level, said Phillip Chudoba, Marine Corps assistant director of intelligence. The council is designed to streamline the process by eliminating the need for general officers to sign off on decisions. The colonels will identify mature technologies capable of being delivered to warfighters within 18 months. The council will partner with the users on one end and industry on the other, Chudoba explained. “We want to be that one-stop shop for intelligence innovation.”

Brig. Gen. David Coffman, USMC, former commander of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit who currently is assigned to the National Military Command Center, created a lot of conference buzz when he reported that the adoption of full-motion video feeds from intelligence platforms, such as the Predator drone, has a downside. Gen. Coffman said that warfighters and their civilian leadership can become so addicted to the feeds that they crowd around the video monitors and that the fascination can lead to poor decision-making by warfighters and to leadership micromanagement.

The transition to mobile devices also presents an array of challenges, many of which were bluntly addressed at the conference. John Wilcox, CIO and director of command, control, communications and computers, U.S. Special Operations Command, reported that it can be tempting to ignore the rules and allow warfighters to use unauthorized devices on the military networks. “Sometimes you want to look the other way because you want to give the warfighters what they need,” Wilcox explained. “Other times, you want to say, ‘What’s that going to do for this network and for the connections back to the [Global Information Grid]?’”

Wilcox also warned that the military has fallen behind the commercial sector and the general public in the transition to mobile, and he challenged the military and industry to find a cellphone that will serve a commander’s purpose both in garrison and on the battlefield.

Jim Young, Army account manager for Google, joined Wilcox on the mobile communications panel. He predicted a world where every soldier will be capable of writing apps for their mobile devices when they need them. “Anybody in the Army at whatever level should be able to create a mobile app, whether it is simple or sophisticated.”

Lt. Col. Gregory Conti, USA, who directs the Cyber Research Center at the U.S. Military Academy, challenged the Defense Department to establish a comprehensive cyber career field that military members—both enlisted and officers—could stay in from the day they enter the service until the day they retire. Col. Conti made the remarks during an academic panel on recruiting, training and retaining tomorrow’s cyberwarriors. Rear Adm. Andy Singer, USN (Ret.), Inman chair for intelligence at the Naval Postgraduate School, added that the military needs to professionalize the cyber element of war, just as it has other military occupational skills.