In its ninth iteration, the AFCEA-GMU Critical Issues in C4I Symposium brought together leaders in academia, industry and government in May at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, to address important topics in command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) technology. The two-day program focused on increased autonomy and spectrum management, among other subjects.
Conquering cyberthreats that pose a national security risk means pairing cutting-edge technology and leading-edge talent, according to U.S. Defense Department experts.
The department’s technology wish list, discussed during the Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium (DCOS), touches on a number of disruptive areas, including machine learning, biometrics, the cloud, what officials are dubbing “software-defined everything,” and solutions to improve mobility and identity protections. Experts shared the challenges and solutions of leveraging technology and talent at the AFCEA International event June 13-15 in Baltimore.
The road for NATO to achieve communications interoperability must be paved with innovation and effective cybersecurity, top leaders recently said. Only then can the alliance fulfill its missions and continue to function as it faces a wide range of threats in a time of tight budgets.
However, identifying technology needs and incorporating them is easier said than done. NATO and its 28 member nations still lack a concrete plan to rush new capabilities into alliance and national systems. Intricate procurement processes compound the absence of cooperation among contracted firms, while cyber adversaries continue to improve and broaden their methods.
Autonomous functionality is increasing. The evidence is everywhere from drones and self-driving cars to voice-controlled devices such as IBM's Watson and Amazon’s Echo. The key to successfully transitioning to these increasingly autonomous systems for the military and defense industry is trust, said Dr. Paul D. Nielsen, director and CEO, Software Engineering Institute, Carnegie Mellon University.
Managing spectrum, much like other national resources such as water, natural gas and land, is a growing issue due to the number of users. Now more than ever, with growing cybersecurity threats, it's important to outline a national approach to spectrum utilization for both the U.S. economy and the federal government.
The world of spectrum is exploding and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants in. Paul Tilghman, program manager, Microsystems Office, DARPA, believes that collaborative use of spectrum can make this scarce resource available to everybody but many challenges exist.
“We are not nimble right now with spectrum. We need to move away from worrying about spectrum availability and think about how we can automate it,” Tilghman said during his morning keynote address at the AFCEA/GMU Critical Issues in C4I Symposium.
If they play their cards right, conference attendees can get much more out of attending an event than just listening to the who’s who of this career field or that. At this year’s Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium, or DCOS, open ears can also lead to open opportunities. Not only do attendees get the chance to listen to experts, they can enhance careers by receiving continuing education units.
Currently, 21 continuing education sessions will be offered during the three-day symposium, hosted by AFCEA International. It takes place June 13-15 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore.
U.S. laws and the lack of a firm national cybersecurity policy are restricting the Army’s actions in its around-the-clock battle against dangerous cyber adversaries. The service lacks the authority to engage in activities that truly resolve digital conflicts, although it could earn the authority through its ongoing efforts. The Army is challenged to both streamline its fight against cyberthreats and exploit continually changing technologies.
For some, networking is the most intangible yet valuable AFCEA benefit. I first met Vice Adm. Nancy Brown, USN (Ret.), in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She was a rear admiral at the time assigned to the Pentagon, but a temporary relocation of offices spared her group some of the horrors of the attack on the Pentagon.
I was interviewing her for a story on the Navy’s creation of a new restricted line designation for naval officers: the information professional community. “One reason we are doing this in the Navy is that the Chief of Naval Operations and senior people know the importance of technology,” she had said. Yes, that was in 2001.
NATO is undergoing needed change and striving to spend more on vital projects, but it must ramp up these efforts to be successful, said a former U.S. Army veteran who is the deputy assistant secretary general for defense investment at NATO. Ernest J. Herold told the Wednesday audience in his keynote address at NITEC 2017 in Ottawa that NATO needs to adapt to survive. In recent years, the balance has tilted in favor of collective defense, but further changes are necessary.
“For NATO to remain relevant, it needs to adapt to the changing security environment and its challenges,” he stated.
A new generation of secure space satellites will both serve Canada and contribute to NATO innovation, said a government official. Corinne Charette, senior assistant deputy minister, Spectrum, Information Technologies and Telecommunications Sector, Canada, told the audience at NITEC 2017 in Ottawa that the country will benefit both socially and economically from the new orbiters looming just over the horizon.
Charette emphasized that these satellites, which will represent cutting-edge space technologies, will have effective cybersecurity. That cybersecurity may originate in Canada, as she noted the country has a burgeoning high-technology industry.
Useful methods of encouraging innovation in military cyber must be consolidated to achieve success, according to high-technology executives. Speaking on the second day of NITEC 2017 in Ottawa, this panel of experts outlined useful measures of boosting innovation, and then warned they must be part of a larger overall effort.
Cybersecurity has not kept up with changes in the realm that opened the door to the security challenges facing networks today, said a Silicon Valley executive. Mark Anderson, president of Palo Alto Networks, told the audience at day two of NITEC 2017 in Ottawa that new approaches to security and network architecture must be implemented to turn the tide against cyber adversaries.
“The past decade, there have been tectonic shifts in the IT [information technology] landscape that created the perfect storm,” Anderson said. He mentioned several activities—and lack of key actions—that enabled adversaries to take advantage of their own burgeoning skills to penetrate networks nearly at will.
The NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency has named 10 innovations as the best of its Defence Innovation Challenge, which is designed to spur new solutions to agency challenges. The agency announced and presented the awards at NITEC 2017 in Ottawa. The winners, representing both industry and academia, are:
• Radionor Communications (Norway): Long-range wireless communications: resilient terrestrial long-range or rapidly deployable, scalable IT infrastructure
• Larus Technologies Corporation (Canada): Service management automation and analytics
U.S. cybersecurity firms have discovered the value and the difficulty of building a stable of trusted peers, but extending that principle to the multinational status of NATO will be as challenging as it is important, according to a U.S. technology firm leader experienced with both government and industry. Glen F. Post III, CEO and president, CenturyLink, told the first-day audience at NITEC 2017 in Ottawa that his firm serves its customers by relying on trusted partners who can support the company as needed.
The gravest national security threat to the United States is a product of its own making.
By far, concerns emanating from the cyber domain outrank conventional conflict hazards posed by the Chinas, Irans, North Koreas or Russias of the world, military leaders said in February during West 2017 in San Diego.
Making innovation the prime driver of the U.S. defense community will require an ongoing, long-term effort, defense experts say. Known as the third offset, this endeavor is more of a methodology than an objective, they explained at a recent two-day conference.
AFCEA International, along with Second Front Systems and Business Executives for National Security, held the inaugural Offset Symposium February 14-15 in San Francisco to improve connections between venture capitalists and government innovators. The forum at the Marines’ Memorial Club aimed to advance the work of building the ties that bind innovative technology clusters such as Silicon Valley and the national security community.
Synchronizing cyber with other domains—air, land, sea and space—is still a challenge, but the situation is improving, Lt. Col. Mark Esslinger, USAF, U.S. Pacific Command Joint Cyber Center, asserted during the AFCEA TechNet Asia-Pacific conference November 15-17 in Honolulu.
Col. Esslinger served on a panel of cyber experts. Panelists agreed that the authorities to conduct cyber operations—along with policies, doctrines, tactics, techniques and procedures—still need to be defined. “The cyber mission force is still maturing, and the combatant commands are learning to integrate their capabilities,” Col. Esslinger offered.
AFCEA Europe’s second-largest flagship event, TechNet Europe, featured the latest topics in cybersecurity and command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR). This year’s conference, held October 3-5 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, was organized under the patronage of the Netherlands Ministry of Defense in cooperation with AFCEA’s The Hague Chapter and welcomed more than 200 attendees from 17 countries.
Even as the U.S. Defense Department’s designated Cyber Mission Force reached the key milestone of initial operating capability in October, operators still are struggling to figure out “fighting in the cyber domain,” said Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, USA, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency. Leaders are looking to strike the perfect balance between the competing priorities of speed, security and cost.