Implementing the Joint Information Environment (JIE) is a huge challenge but well worth the effort. It represents an opportunity to create an integrated environment for information protection, transmission and sharing. Achieving this objective would enhance our nation’s joint warfighting capability and save resources in the process. Unfortunately, doing so has been a struggle.
The Defense Department stands at a technological and financial crossroads, needing to accelerate the proliferation of new networks and applications while heeding budgetary concerns.
As such, department officials are looking carefully at software-defined networking (SDN) and the potential the method provides as a key foundation of the Joint Information Environment (JIE). SDN lets agencies build more flexible, consolidated and efficient networks, while spinning up new applications and tools faster.
“We have to embrace the software-defined mission of where we have to go with the networks,” Defense Department Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen said at the 2014 Federal Forum when discussing the JIE.
The U.S. Marine Corps is looking toward its major information technology support projects to serve its tactical command, control, communications and computers needs. This represents a melding of two traditionally separate disciplines, but one that is necessary to enable tactical forces to have the same capabilities found in garrison. These efforts are taking place against the backdrop of the Joint Information Environment, with which they would interoperate.
Emerging news from the Defense Department about the national capital region (NCR) indicates that department activities in the Washington, D.C., area may soon fall under a regional joint information environment, or JIE. This will affect the department’s information technology organizations in the NCR and potentially disrupt the industry contracts supporting these organizations.
The Defense Department, facing an increase in defensive cyber operations, now has the command and control it needs to wage those actions on its information network. The Joint Force Headquarters Department of Defense Information Network consolidates efforts that previously were dispersed among the services and organizations.
A relatively small team within the U.S. Defense Department works long hours to accomplish something big—establishing a single network for all defense missions. That effort involves simultaneously enhancing network security, implementing a cyberspace command and control concept, improving the mission partner environment and incorporating commercial cloud into the network architecture.
The cyber attacks that threaten the United States are just as intense and worrisome for NATO, which comes under persistent strikes by nation-states, terrorist groups and criminal organizations all assailing with denial-of-service malware, organized criminal incursions, cyber espionage and website defacements. As the U.S. Defense Department toils at creating a unified and secure network, so too does NATO.
“The modernization program in NATO is the flagship for the future of our network as we work to achieve our objectives of having a secured, connected force and being able to support NATO in its rapid deployed content,” says Gregory B. Edwards, NATO’s director of infrastructure services in Mons, Belgium.
While it has always been important to strive for interoperability among and across systems within the U.S. military branches and other Defense Department (DOD) agencies, the need now is more critical than ever for the oldest and largest government agency in the United States.
Why now? One primary driving force for a refocus on interoperability is the creation of the U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM). Formally established in May 2010, CYBERCOM’s focus, among other things, is to “lead day-to-day defense and protection of DOD information networks,” according to the agency’s mission statement.
Coming soon to a network near you: consolidation and reinvention.
Two years ago, the U.S. Defense Department developed the Joint Information Environment (JIE) framework. Since then, key stakeholders and drivers of the JIE have been working to realign, restructure and modernize the department’s information technology networks to increase collaboration among departments while reducing the cyberthreat landscape. The JIE vision is an integrated and interoperable joint enterprise environment that can be leveraged across all department missions—an extremely important development as Defense Department dependence on the network has never been higher and cyberthreats are rising.
Network modernization is becoming a priority for defense agencies—and for good reason. Much of our defense network infrastructure was conceived 20 years ago and put into place almost a decade ago.
While the networks remain the same, the technologies that depend on them have advanced, and innovation can no longer be supported by outdated and ineffective infrastructure. Near real-time access to data enabled by the latest technologies and Internet-connected sensors can improve situational awareness for warfighters. They also build the foundation for more advanced communication and intelligent tactical networks that are crucial to the missions of our military.
The first wave of testing of the U.S. Defense Department’s joint regional security stacks now underway at military bases in Texas and Europe shows the hardware and software tasked with improved protection of the department’s network, expected to deliver unprecedented cyber situational awareness, is on track to deliver as anticipated, according to the department's acting chief information officer.
The U.S. Defense Department is primed to take a first step toward the realization of the colossal concept of connecting its entire network system under the Joint Information Environment (JIE).
For more than a year, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), along with the Army, Air Force and defense contractor Lockheed Martin, has worked on the joint regional security stacks (JRSS), a key upgrade to streamline network operations and, officials say, improve security.
JIE leaders offer that the biggest impediment to its success is the cultural change the JIE is bringing to the Defense Department. DeVries describes the department as a very large organization with processes built into it over a long period of time for defining requirements and then coming up with a recommendation of how to meet those requirements. Traditionally, the focus has been on buying a system to satisfy those requirements, and the services often had their own unique needs and methods of operation.
The individual services are pursuing different aspects of JIE development in what planners hope will be a synergy of capability and expertise. However, not all the services are sold on the JIE approach.
Gen. Hawkins believes the services are working well in concert with DISA. The agency is working with them on the single security architecture, which he describes as “a piece of an enterprise-level capability.” Tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) must be tied to how security is handled at the enterprise level, and all the services are working through the JIE executive committee, in which DISA is a partner.
Successful JIE implementation will require industry to be agile in providing key capabilities, particularly mobile communications. Gen. Bowman says reliable secure wireless and mobile command and control are the most important technologies needed from industry. “We’re talking about command and control devices on a tablet or some other handheld device—as well as helping us through the security wickets,” he expresses. In the security realm, these devices come down to a risk-based decision; the department must ensure that the right people are taking the right risk with the right information, he maintains. This might entail less than a 100-percent secure solution, as long as the risk is acceptable to the user.
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.
The U.S. Army is modernizing its computer networks to improve interoperability with the other services in today’s joint and coalition warfighting environment. A key part of this effort is collaborating with the Defense Department to help stand up the Joint Information Environment (JIE), which will provide commanders with a secure space to collaborate and share classified information, top Army officials said.
The U.S. military is moving to the Joint Information Environment (JIE) in part because the current architecture is too complex to be easily defended, Teri Takai, Defense Department chief information officer, said at the April 2 Security Through Innovation Summit, Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) is helping the service put its joint modernization plans into place. As the command responsible for handling cyberspace, communications and information missions, it is the Air Force’s instrument in meeting major Defense Department technology goals, such as establishing the Joint Information Environment (JIE).
It’s impossible these days to attend a U.S. Defense Department information technology presentation without repeated mentions of the Joint Information Environment (JIE). But industry representatives often ask, “What does JIE mean to me?” I did some digging into the environment—leveraging the expertise of the AFCEA Technology Committee, discussions with several senior defense information technology leaders and insights from colleagues at my firm who participated in JIE Increment 1 in Europe.