Information Becomes the Top Transportable Defense Commodity

May 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Materiel yields to media, along with accompanying cyberthreats, for the command responsible for moving military goods.

The U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) moves more information than it does any physical commodity, and this development has redefined the command’s security requirements. These requirements are complicated by the presence of commercial providers whose presence poses potential cyberspace vulnerabilities.

This emerged during a panel discussion on the second day of AFCEA’s three-day Joint Information Environment (JIE) Mission Partner Symposium being held in Baltimore May 12-14. Brig. Gen. Sarah Zabel, USAF, director, command, control, communications and cyber, J-6, U.S. Transportation Command, told the audience that more than 90 percent of the command’s order fulfillment is done through commercial partners.

“We do very little of moving people or stuff—we largely move information,” she said. “We have to look at our information being in a low-assurance environment.”

In 2009, the Transportation Command suffered from a significant intrusion that came through a commercial partner, the general related. So, the command began hardening its information technology systems. This effort included inserts into acquisition contracts for security among commercial partners. She pointed out that an enemy attacking in cyberspace could delay or disrupt shipments to a geographic combatant command.

The Transportation Command has moved its command and control system inside a security boundary. These secure systems are “the JIE for TRANSCOM,” Gen. Zabel allowed, and they will go to the greater JIE. “Security will be the top consideration,” she emphasized. “We’re keeping a sharp eye on that, looking forward to a productive future in which we and JIE converge.”

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