Maryann Lawlor

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Maryann Lawlor
Director of Communications
Truth is, I became a writer because in high school, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. I still don’t know. But I figured that, while I couldn’t commit to being a doctor or teacher for the rest of my life, I could write about doctors and teachers and cars and housework…oh, how the list goes on…and, OK, so Watergate was really big at the time.

But then, life happened. I met my husband during my first week at Marquette University and we married five years later. In 1983, we had our first of two sons, and I was fortunate enough to be able to be a stay-at-home mom. In 1992, I answered a classified ad for a publication assistant at AFCEA. I’d been out of the work force for nine years, and a “little thing” called personal computers had the nerve to move into offices while I wasn’t looking. But I couldn’t have landed in a better place. Rob Robinson, SIGNAL’s editor in chief at the time, allowed me to write for SIGNAL Magazine from time to time…and I learned. Since then, I’ve worked on a Mac at the office and a PC at home. I’ve had the opportunity to write about artificial intelligence, UAVs, satellites…oh how the list goes on.

Sometimes, people are impressed when I tell them I’m a journalist. I explain that, like most people, I hate to write…I like to have written. What I do enjoy is interviewing people who are passionate about what they do. And there are no more dedicated people in this world than members of the military.

My Recent Content:

Report Calls for Better Data Sharing
November 8, 2017
By Maryann Lawlor
DHS systems must provide more specific information to private sector about cyberthreats.

The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’) Office of Inspector General (OIG) says the department needs to improve how it facilitates cyberthreat information sharing between federal government agencies and the private sector. Although the OIG acknowledges DHS’ progress in enabling sharing among government entities, the department’s system still focuses on volume, velocity and timeliness of information but does not provide the quality, contextual data needed for the private sector to effectively defend against ever-evolving threats.  

The OIG’s biennial report also recognized the department’s improvements in properly classifying cyberthreat indicators and defensive measures as well as accounting for the security clearances of private sector recipients of this information.

Challenges continue because the DHS’ system is automated with predetermined data fields, the OIG found. As a result, it does not provide adequate information regarding specific incidents, tactics, techniques and procedures that unauthorized users have deployed to exploit software vulnerabilities. To address this shortfall, federal and private sector partners sometimes rely on other systems or participate in other DHS information sharing programs to obtain quality cyberthreat data.

The report also noted that the unclassified and classified databases and repositories are not integrated. Consequently, analysts’ ability to compile complete situational awareness of potential threats is limited.

The OIG has made five recommendations for the National Protection Programs Directorate to improve current conditions, including acquiring the technologies for cross-domain sharing and automated analysis of cyberthreat data; enhancing outreach to promote DHS’ information sharing program; and implementing required security controls on selected information systems. The directorate is moving forward with implementing the recommendations.

The Changing Face of Warfare
  • Speaking at TechNet Augusta 2017, Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, USA, commanding general, U.S. Army Cyber Command, said the multidomain battlefield of the future will include more robots, unmanned convoys and pilotless ships and aircraft as well as cyber and other transformational capabilities.
     Speaking at TechNet Augusta 2017, Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, USA, commanding general, U.S. Army Cyber Command, said the multidomain battlefield of the future will include more robots, unmanned convoys and pilotless ships and aircraft as well as cyber and other transformational capabilities.

Evolutionary threats, global instability and the rapid pace of technological change are influencing the U.S. Army’s next steps for planning, training and fighting. Although the service has made significant network improvements for more than a decade, its leaders agree that more progress is needed to operate in the contested environment of the future.

Experts from throughout the U.S. military, industry and academia recently gathered at TechNet Augusta in Georgia to explore the way forward. Speakers and panelists included leaders intricately involved in the cyber fight, including Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, USA, who became the service’s chief information officer/G-6 in August; Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, USA, commanding general, U.S. Army Cyber Command; and Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr., USA, commander, Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon.

Cyber electromagnetic activities (CEMA) were among the hottest topics discussed. Gen. Morrison shared that the Army’s newest doctrine, which codifies how the service will operate in cyberspace and wraps in electronic warfare (EW) for fighting in these new domains, already is changing the way the service operates.

“For the very first time, it says that DODIN [Department of Defense Information Network] operations are the foundation for cyberspace operations. That intrinsically means that the Signal regiment is intricately linked to cyber operations. There is no separation,” the general stated.

In addition, the doctrine establishes the network end to end—strategic to tactical. “There is no differentiation between the two because in cyberspace it is ubiquitous. It codifies how we’re going to organize ourselves from an offensive cyber perspective and then balances that with ... those defensive actions we take ... to prevent an attack. It brings those two together,” he said.

Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, USA (Ret.), former director of command, control, communications and computers/cyber for the Joint Staff, agreed that CEMA is crucial but is not convinced that troops are being sufficiently trained in these activities.

During a panel discussion about building and integrating CEMA at the tactical and operational levels, Gen. Bowman painted a dire picture of future warfare. The next war, he said, would begin with wave after wave of cyber and EW attacks, and the United States is not prepared for this type of warfare.

Although the Army is making strides in training the CEMA force, it is not yet doing enough and may not be able to address all possible scenarios in a training environment. “We as a nation are extremely vulnerable, more so than any of us would really want to admit—not only our networks but our infrastructure. And the bad guys are banging on us every day,” Gen. Bowman stated.

To exemplify his stance, the general shared a personal experience. He was in charge of a network that was attacked and taken down by the Russians. “It was an ugly event, but it was much the same as a natural disaster, such as Katrina. They whacked us. Our network went down, and we started rebuilding,” Gen. Bowman recalled.

But if hit by multiple waves of attacks, rebuilding will not be so simple, he asserted. “They’re going to hit us and hit us and hit us, and the only way we’ll be able to survive and to operate through that is to start expanding the level of training and the experience that we have operating with degraded systems or sometimes no systems at all,” he said.

Gen. Nakasone of Army Cyber Command agreed with Gen. Bowman’s emphasis on securing networks and training personnel. “Protecting and defending cyberspace and exploiting electromagnetic spectrum will be key to overcoming the anti-access and anti-denial strategies of our adversaries. The success of the CEMA concept relies on integrating the cyber, electromagnetic, electronic warfare and information force in the future,” Gen. Nakasone stated.

The general compared today’s changes in cyber and technology to the changes that occurred during World War I that transformed 20th-century warfare. “To succeed on the future battlefield will require our Army and the joint force to adapt how we fight in response to these changes. Military history is filled with examples of armies that adapted their tactics in response to change, and quite frankly, those armies that did not,” he said.

Unfortunately, the United States may not have an advantage in any single domain. “Nowadays, I would say American superiority in any domain against a peer or near-peer adversary can certainly not be guaranteed,” Gen. Nakasone stated.

On the battlefield of the future, enemy cyber attacks likely will be launched to disrupt U.S. military electronic systems before any kinetic operations even begin. Battle for air and sea control would commence hundreds of miles from any landing area, and barrages of missiles would attempt to defeat naval and air forces. Airdrops would be futile, and drones overhead would film the destruction in an attempt to control the narrative, he said.

Future conflicts are likely to expand far past what traditionally would be thought of as the battle lines, Gen. Nakasone added. “We should anticipate cyber attacks—not only cyber attacks in an area of conflict but against the homeland—certainly against our critical infrastructure and key resources,” he predicted.

Col. Charles Chalfont, USA, chief, Enterprise Integration Division, Office of the Army Chief Information Officer/G-6, shared that the Army, Air Force and Defense Information Systems Agency are taking steps to decrease the chances that this will occur. Together, they have developed the Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS) to better protect and defend information networks by reducing the attack surface.

Before the JRSS, the Army had hundreds of server stacks both on the classified and unclassified side. The modernization effort ultimately will reduce that to 23 secure stacks and 25 unsecured.

“We’re eliminating different ways into the network,” Col. Chalfont said. “This ends up with an increased level of security and more efficient operation as well. The bits and bytes will flow faster and more smoothly as we take out some of these redundant security solutions that are in place.”

Find additional articles, plus photos and videos at

October 1, 2017
By George I. Seffers and Maryann Lawlor
Army leaders confront circumstances challenging warfighters.
There's a New Game in Town
September 21, 2017
By Maryann Lawlor
Warfighters invited to innovate via fantasy fighting.
  • Operation Overmatch pits innovation against reality in a virtual environment.
     Operation Overmatch pits innovation against reality in a virtual environment.

The U.S. Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC) and Army Game Studio are introducing an online multiplayer game that enables soldiers to help design the future battlespace. Called Operation Overmatch, the technology allows warfighters, research personnel and leaders to configure future concepts of vehicles and equipment, execute missions and complete objectives in a virtual complex environment.

Operation Overmatch was created with the help of Early Synthetic Prototyping (ESP), a process and set of tools that facilitates the radical transformation of development and acquisition decisions by designing and assessing emerging technology in a game environment.

According to its developers, one goal of the game is to disrupt the design/test/build paradigm by validating equipment, doctrines and organization through direct soldier and stakeholder feedback and player behavior data analysis. ARCIC officials contend that innovation is born from the type of experimentation, failure and iterative progress that Operation Overmatch provides.

"Gaming is a tremendous medium to connect soldiers to the concept," says Lt. Col. Brian Vogt, USA, ARCIC. "Gaming is not just for entertainment anymore; now it is for experimenting." 

Initial participants for Operation Overmatch’s test phase were hand-selected. The beta test will open in October, and the service encourages soldiers from across the Army to sign up. Players will be added as development continues.

The game’s potential audience includes soldiers across the Army, including all ranks, all military occupational specialties, National Guard, Army Reserve and cadets. Department of the Army civilians, members of academia and industry partners also will be invited participate. Eventually, the game could be available to all the armed services, as well as international partners and allies.

ESP’s potential as a game changer is enormous. Soldiers and collaborators in acquisition, science, technology and industry can virtually prototype models and scenarios for play and evaluation. The process and tools encourage the exploration of disruptive ideas at a minimal cost by inviting warfighters at all levels to test drive and refine future systems.

"This allows for improving ideas on future concepts," Col. Vogt says. "You can find things you like and don't like. You can test future concepts. How would you use this gear? How would you be able to defeat the enemy in this scenario? You can shape ideas of what you think they should look like." 

Developing Operation Overmatch itself has been a collaborative effort. "We reached out to academia and industry to determine how to shape it. Operation Overmatch has been in development for about a year. Everyone involved [from the] Research, Development and Engineering Command and ARCIC have something they are trying to achieve," the colonel says.

Mike Barnett, chief engineer, Army Game Studio, says Operation Overmatch’s success depend on input of a range of players. “We invite the participation and feedback of soldiers, engineers, scientists and other acquisition personnel," he states. "We invite you to be a part of the agile development of our future forces to win in a complex world at"

More Training Boosts Cybersecurity
September 19, 2017
By Maryann Lawlor
Many organizations missing opportunity by not empowering their current work force.
  • Continuous cybersecurity training enables organizations to better use the expertise within their staffs. (Photo by Shutterstock)
     Continuous cybersecurity training enables organizations to better use the expertise within their staffs. (Photo by Shutterstock)

A survey of thousands of information technology professionals reveals that a majority of organizations have too few security workers and nearly half do not provide adequate resources for security training. According to the “IT Professionals Are a Critically Underutilized Resource for Cybersecurity” study, 51 percent of the respondents said their systems are less able to defend against a cyber attack compared to a year ago.

Research for the study, which (ISC)2 conducted, was based on responses from more than 3,300 information technology professionals, nearly 900 of whom work for the U.S. government. The report underscores how many organizations are not fully empowering and equipping their IT staff with the education and authority they need to effectively bolster their cybersecurity.

David Shearer, CISSP, CEO of (ISC)², says the findings suggest too many organizations overlook a tremendous pool of cybersecurity talent who are already on staff and intimately familiar with organizations’ infrastructure and processes.

“The quickest way for many organizations to bolster their cyber defense is through continuous security education and empowerment of their IT team. Security is a shared responsibility across any enterprise or government agency. Unless IT is adequately trained and enabled to apply best practices across all systems, even the best security plan is vulnerable to failure,” he says.

The report comes on the heels of research that predicts that a serious information security work force talent shortage looms in the next decade. Frost & Sullivan gathered the data for the Center for Cyber Safety and Education’s research report. More than 19,000 information security professionals worldwide indicated that, while employers will need millennials to fill the projected 1.8 million security jobs in 2022, many millennials seek the very career development and training opportunities today’s organizations currently do not provide.

“Millennials will and in many cases are already critical players who enable the success of our collective cyber defense,” says Angela Messer, executive vice president, cyber innovation business leader and cyber talent development champion, Booz Allen Hamilton. “To attract, retain and empower these millennials, it’s clear from the Global Information Security Workforce Study that our industry must be innovative not only in its tradecraft, but also in how we support this next generation of information security professionals,” she says.

Part Inspiration, Part Determination
  • Maj. Gen. Sandra Finan, USAF, discusses her unique path, barriers she helped break and future opportunities that exist for women in the Air Force.
     Maj. Gen. Sandra Finan, USAF, discusses her unique path, barriers she helped break and future opportunities that exist for women in the Air Force.

I was walking our two dogs listening to a “Stuff Mom Never Told You” podcast when the women in STEM idea piqued my interest. The topic intrigued me mostly because I thought in 2016 the issue of gender in the workplace had been settled. In a way, I was right. Career options for women were no longer limited to teaching, nursing or the nunnery.

Those appeared to be my only options as a girl growing up on Chicago’s Southside in the late 19…well, let’s just say when I was starting my career as a journalist, the Equal Rights Amendment was making its way around the states for ratification. But as my career progressed, I saw more females in a variety of professional positions. So, a discussion about a dearth of women in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields caught me by surprise.

Fortunately, I work at AFCEA, where promoting STEM education is of paramount importance. Bringing the topic to the attention to the membership team was all I had to do to get the ball rolling not only on investigating the topic but also doing something about it.

With the whole-hearted support of AFCEA’s President and CEO Lt. Gen. Bob Shea, USMC (Ret.), the idea snowballed from hosting the first all-female panel focusing on women in STEM at TechNet Augusta 2016 to a 10-part series on the SIGNAL website. Based on interviews with successful women in STEM professions, the articles took a closer look at how female military and industry leaders entered and then stuck with jobs that still are largely male dominated.

Others agreed that this was an important topic. The SIGNAL series recently won an APEX Award for Excellence, and what these women said about how they got to where they are illustrates their own determination and some insights into the work that must continue.

While reviewing the series, certain themes emerged. The most surprising was that all these women knew in their hearts that they were destined to work in STEM fields. Several, including Mylene Frances Lee and Maj. Gen. Sandra, Finan, USAF, started out in different fields, but technology called to them, and they chose to follow. Many were one of only a handful of women in their courses. They didn’t let it stop them.

Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski, USAF, who commands the U.S. Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, described her initiation into a male-dominated field. She said she never felt she didn’t belong in the STEM community, even when, as a freshman at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), her physics professor started every class with, “Gentlemen, this is what we will cover today.”

But it takes more than intuition and willpower to succeed in STEM fields today. These women look at the STEM work force and see the need to rethink the very institutions they experienced. Education is key, many said, and the nitty-gritty elements of science and technology must be introduced at the elementary school level. "There is this lost generation that didn't get STEM early enough," said Evetta-DiRee McGuire, a senior program manager at ManTech International Corporation.

Mentorship also is crucial both to encouraging women to enter technical fields and stay in them. Nearly all the interviewees had at least one senior adviser who wouldn’t let them give up. Today, all of them are doing the same for the female newbies in the field.

Although these women spoke about how STEM careers benefited them, one fascinating twist was their belief that closing the gender gap is important to the United States. Time and again they emphasized how addressing what is largely thought to be a societal issue is so much more.

Gen. Pawlikowski explained it this way: “Everywhere I go, I try to provide an environment that nurtures all kinds of diversity. Particularly in science and engineering, the diversity of thought that comes from having people from many different walks of life, from many different backgrounds, is a tremendous multiplier when it comes to problem solving.”

Rear Adm. Nancy Norton, USN, director of warfare integration and deputy director for Navy cybersecurity, agreed. “I don't want 100 people with one idea. I want 100 people with 100 ideas, and then we can figure out what the best ones are.”

Since that dog walk last year, I’ve had at least 100 ideas, some better than others. Bringing attention to supporting women in STEM was one of the better ones.

Has the gender gap shrunk since the 1970s? A bit. Be sure to read One Small Step Taken. One Giant Leap Needed. for a millennial perspective of this issue.

For the second year, TechNet Augusta will feature an all-women panel. Join the discussion at the Women in Cyber session at 1:30 p.m. on August 9.

July 20, 2017
By Maryann Lawlor
Closing the STEM gender gap requires both.

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