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National Security Agency Program Fills Critical Cyber Skills Gaps

June 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

The first graduates are emerging from centers of excellence for cyber operations that teach the in-depth computer science and engineering skills necessary to conduct network operations. The program better prepares graduates to defend networks and should reduce the on-the-job training needed for new hires, saving both time and money.

The National Security Agency (NSA) initiated the Centers of Academic Excellence-Cyber Operations (CAE-CO) program in 2012. Eight schools were designated centers of excellence in the first two years with another round of announcements expected in mid-June. Agency officials say they hope eventually to have a total of 20 to 25 schools on the list.

The effort is a deeply technical, interdisciplinary, higher education program firmly grounded in the computer science, computer engineering and electrical engineering disciplines. “We had noticed that a lot of graduates coming out of universities didn’t have quite the same skills that they’ve had in the past,” recalls Steve LaFountain, dean of the College of Cyber, National Cryptologic School, and the distinguished academic chair for information assurance and cyber, NSA. “Some of the skills needed in the cyber operations field, such as low-level programming, deep knowledge of networks and network protocols and understanding of operating systems internals, were starting to become less emphasized by academic programs.”

The change in school curricula is understandable because a lot of jobs today are focused on Web applications and mobile applications and require a different skill set than today’s cyber operations, he adds. “Instead of doing C programming, they’re now doing Java, Perl and Python programming. We decided to create this program and focus the requirements on the skills necessary for cyber operations,” LaFountain explains.

Sandia Cyber Technologies Academy Offers Free Courses

May 2, 2014
By George I. Seffers

High school students and teachers get to learn about the world of cybersecurity through Sandia National Laboratories' Cyber Technologies Academy (CTA), which offers free classes for those interested in computer science and cybersecurity.

The Bottom Line: JIE Revolutionizes Transformation

May 15, 2014
By Maryann Lawlor

The military’s evolving environment stands on the strong shoulders of the past to reach for the clouds.

Just How Important Is the Joint Information Environment (JIE)?

May 1, 2014
by Kent R. Schneider

Anyone following the progress of the Joint Information Environment (JIE) knows by now that it is not a program of record. No one will see large procurements to provide the JIE. It definitely is a framework: it defines standards and architectures for consistency across the defense environment. It defines a core environment and interfaces for the connection of networks and systems to the core. The JIE leverages initiatives to consolidate networks and data centers, to establish enterprise services and to implement transitional technologies such as cloud implementations, mobility, security solutions, big data and analytics, and the Internet of everything. It is a coordinating effort, using existing and planned programs, contracts and initiatives to provide a common operating environment rather than start with new acquisitions.

It is important to understand the JIE extends well beyond the boundaries of defense. It provides the path for better information sharing with other federal, state, local and tribal networks and systems. It is vital to achieving interoperability and ease of information sharing along with security with U.S. coalition partners.

Recently, I was in Europe attending AFCEA TechNet International and NATO C4ISR Industry Days, which are fully integrated in a single program. Key to this conference is AFCEA’s partnership with the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency. An important element of this conference was reporting on the state of development of the Federated Mission Network (FMN), an evolution of the Afghan Mission Network (AMN), the information sharing environment created in Afghanistan to support the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The FMN is intended to institutionalize the AMN experience to provide an adaptable framework for information sharing in future NATO engagements, whether combat or humanitarian assistance.

The Air Force Networks its Networks

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Air Force networking that links its air assets has extended its reach into the rest of the service and the joint realm as it moves a greater variety of information among warfighters and decision makers. This builds on existing networking efforts, but it also seeks to change longtime acquisition habits that have been detrimental to industry—and, by connection, to the goal of speeding innovative capabilities to the warfighter.

The Air Force has broadened some of its research to apply to other networks such as the Joint Information Environment (JIE). One vital effort is the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, or BACN. It provides airborne links aboard crewed and unmanned aircraft, and future iterations may take the form of pods attached to combat aircraft. Other networks and capabilities are being developed or expanded.

This method is in line with the overall Defense Department approach to networking. “We’re starting to think much more ‘system of systems,’ but we need to graduate to ‘enterprise of enterprises,’” says Dr. Tim Rudolph, chief technology officer (CTO) at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. “It is that much of an integration of different features of different platforms.”

Rudolph also supports the Program Executive Officer (PEO) Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks (C3I&N) as CTO and chief architect, and he is a senior leader/technical adviser for integrated information capabilities. He explains that networking air assets includes domains such as terrestrial, space and cyber.

“Networking is like plumbing,” Rudolph analogizes. “Most people don’t hire plumbers because they like cast iron or copper [pipes]; they do it because they want to move something through the pipes.” The Joint Aerial Layer Network (SIGNAL Magazine, June 2013, page 52, “Joint Aerial Layer…”) provides a construct that allows a great deal of interoperability among assets in various domains, he observes.

Joint 
Information Environment 
Logs Successes, 
Faces Snags

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The Defense Department drive toward its Joint Information Environment is picking up speed as it progresses toward its goal of assimilating military networks across the warfighting realm. Individual services are developing solutions, some of which are targeted for their own requirements, that are being applied to the overarching goal of linking the entire defense environment.

Early successes in Europe have advanced Joint Information Environment (JIE) efforts elsewhere, including the continental United States. Some activities have been accelerated as a result of lessons learned, and they have been implemented ahead of schedule in regions not slated to receive them for months or even years.

However, significant hurdles remain, and not all participants are equally supportive of the effort. Overcoming major cultural challenges may be the most difficult task facing JIE implementation. And, the omnipresent budget constraints facing the entire Defense Department may extend into the JIE, even though it is not officially a program of record.

Senior Defense Department leaders do not hesitate to emphasize the importance of the JIE to future military operations. David DeVries, deputy Defense Department chief information officer (CIO) for information enterprise, describes the JIE as a unifying effort to do “the largest wholesale information technology modernization in the history of the department.”

Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr., USAF, director, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), avows, “The next type of enterprise that our Defense Department will be postured to utilize in the next conflict—be it kinetic or nonkinetic—the JIE will be an integral part of that environment.”

Cybersecurity Lies Take Longer than Cybersecurity Truth

March 24, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Attacks on a computer’s Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) do not receive a lot of attention, and protecting against them is often not a priority, but they are on the rise, say researchers at The MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit research organization funded by the U.S. government. The MITRE team is developing tools to protect against BIOS attacks and is searching for organizations to help evaluate those tools.

Small Businesses Awarded SATCOM Support Contracts

March 20, 2014

Indus Technology Inc., San Diego, Calif., is being awarded a potential $21,797,616 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to support the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific’s (SSC Pacific) Radio Frequency and Network Systems Support Division to provide satellite communications, radio frequency and navigation systems support services. This is one of three contracts awarded: each awardee will have the opportunity to compete for task orders during the ordering period. This three-year contract includes two, one-year options, which if exercised, would bring the potential value of this contract to an estimated $36,825,493. Client Solutions Architect, Mechanicsburg, Pa., is being awarded a potential $21,670,069 indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract with an estimated value of $36,555,425 if all options are exercised. SSC Pacific, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity (N66001-14-D-0034).

General Atomics to Upgrade Remote Split Operations Network

March 20, 2014

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Poway, Calif., has been awarded a $57,528,900 delivery order (0061) to an existing contract (FA8620-10-G-3038) to accomplish the tasks necessary to fabricate, deliver and/or provide hardware, software, and documentation to support the tasks necessary to upgrade and modify the remote split operations (RSO) network to support internet protocols data standards. This acquisition is for the procurement of 234 Ground Control Station kits, seven containerized dual control segment kits, 25 Squadron Operations Center (SOC) low density kits, five Creech SOC low density kits, six Creech SOC high density kits, 24 relay kits, 71 relay circuit to packet kits, three Creech wide-area network kits, one Cannon WAN kit, 26 WAN LD kits, two Cannon SOC kits, 17 relay rack kits, ten network management kits, and related spares and support equipment. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity.

Seeking a Role in Marine Corps Cyber

April 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

A tactical technology support organization that has been serving the U.S. Marines for decades is beginning to find a role in the cyber domain. The group offers a broad range of services, including test and evaluation, engineering and network integration. It also supports users across the Defense Department, U.S. government and allies.

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