Government, Industry Must Embrace One Another to Fight Cyberthreats

June 1, 2016
By Robert K. Ackerman
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The gamut of activities from acquisition to security requires a reboot.

The rapidly changing nature of cyberspace is driving government and industry further into each other’s arms, but even that newfound relationship may not be sufficient to ensure U.S. force supremacy and protect the nation’s critical infrastructure from attack. Both sides must retool their approaches to doing business with each other if the military is to achieve its aims.

No silver bullet fixes exist. Only widely diverse and innovative actions by both parties can begin to address the problems facing high-technology information systems acquisition and procurement. Government needs industry to provide the innovation necessary to keep the military ahead of any potential adversary, and industry needs government to radically change the procurement process so the two-way acquisition street truly benefits both groups.

The success of the evolution to a new symbiotic relationship may determine whether U.S. forces prevail in a conflict against any of a number of diverse adversaries exploiting asymmetric means to defeat the technology-empowered military. But even with major culture changes in both sectors, cyberspace looms as the trump card in any force-on-force conflict, whether domestic or international.

These and other related issues dominated discussions at AFCEA’s Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium (DCOS) 2016, held April 20-22 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Uniformed and civilian leaders in the defense and homeland security arenas joined their corporate counterparts in identifying challenges and suggesting solutions. Throughout the three days of panels and speakers, an air of urgency lurked beneath the dialogue.

Lt. Gen. Alan R. Lynn, USA, director, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and commander, Joint Force Headquarters, Department of Defense Information Networks, said, “We want the technology industry to partner with us to develop the next generation of military [information technology] services.” Addressing cybersecurity needs, he added, “If you have novel ideas of how to do encryption, we’re all ears.” DISA’s efforts to build out the network, which are essential with the looming Internet of Things, will rely on the assured identity and security pieces, the general noted.

He was blunt about cybersecurity challenges. “The world has changed,” Gen. Lynn stated. “In cyber, it used to be almost like an intel game—a gentlemanly sport. People would try to break into your network real smoothly, real slowly.

“Today, they don’t care,” he continued. “They’re kicking in the doors. It’s loud and fast—it’s snatch and grab. The gloves are off. It’s cyber warfare, and it’s daily. It’s happening on our networks.”

Terry Halvorsen, Defense Department chief information officer (CIO), agreed. “We’re at war today in cyber,” he declared. “You in industry are at war today in cyber. The pace of change in cyber is what makes it different from every other war.”

Halvorsen called for a conversation about culture change: “The issue is how we in government look at industry and how industry looks at government. The partnership where we understand what industry is doing and industry understands government is a win-win.” Government needs to listen to industry more, he allowed, and industry must be dedicated to working in new directions.

One area ripe for reform is the procurement process. The pace of technological change is driving the call for transformation. Meg Whitman, president and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, declared, “Things are moving in technology much more rapidly than I’ve ever seen. 

“Often, these [government] contracts feel like straitjackets to us and to your people [in government],” she added. “We have to change the way procurement is done. Government is losing out on the best of industry.”

At the same time, the U.S. military’s once overwhelming superiority has dwindled dangerously at the hands of determined rivals. Two countries in particular pose a significant threat, said Vice Adm. Jan E. Tighe, USN, commander, Fleet Cyber Command and 10th Fleet.

“Russia and China have a growing arsenal of warfighting capabilities specifically designed to challenge us,” she declared. Speaking about the cyber domain, she added, “Every day we fight to defend our network; every day we fight to stay ahead of our adversary.”

More in-depth coverage of DCOS 2016, including videos, photos and presentations, is available at

Lt. Gen. Alan R. Lynn, USA, director, Defense Information Systems Agency and commander, Joint Force Headquarters, Department of Defense Information Networks, speaks to the audience at AFCEA’s Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium 2016.

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