• Attendees listen to keynote addresses during the third annual AFCEA International TechNet Augusta conference, which wraps up Thursday. Photo by Mike Carptenter
     Attendees listen to keynote addresses during the third annual AFCEA International TechNet Augusta conference, which wraps up Thursday. Photo by Mike Carptenter

Cyber Capabilities to Protect the DODIN Could Entice Interesting Work Force

August 26, 2015
By Sandra Jontz
E-mail About the Author

TechNet Augusta 2015

The SIGNAL Magazine Show Daily

Day 2

Uncle Sam wants you—especially unicorns, leprechauns or something in between.

As the U.S. Defense Department revamps the way it protects its critical infrastructures and networks from emerging cyberthreats, military leaders want to reshape their work force and attract to their ranks highly specialized experts, including coveted data scientists.

“I believe we have a significant deficit in the ability to do the data analytics because our work force has not developed personnel with the kind of skills I think that data scientists need,” Maj. Gen. John Baker, USA, commanding general of 7th Signal Command, said during AFCEA International’s third annual TechNet Augusta conference in Georgia. “What we’re looking for ... is either a unicorn or leprechaun, or a mix of the two. We’re looking for somebody with exquisite operational skills who has a definitive understanding of statistics, laced with some ability of economics and is a super coder to boot. Those people exist, but for the most part, they do not work for the United States Army.”

Recruiting and retaining a highly skilled work force goes hand-in-hand with leveraging technologies to protect the key Department of Defense Information Network (DODIN), said Gen. Baker, a panelist addressing how to develop cyber capacity for the network. The three-day TechNet Augusta conference wraps up Thursday.

“In terms of keeping that talent, once you have grown it, I absolutely want to be the command of choice for people who want to serve in our Army,” Gen. Baker continued. “I certainly can’t compete with compensation, but I can compete on the basis of having responsibility, having authority, having a good climate and knowing that you are, in fact, working very hard in support of our Army and our Army’s efforts to secure our country.”

The government and private sector will continue to jockey for talent for the foreseeable future because of the ongoing shortage of talented personnel, said panelist John Klebonis, vice president of federal government customer service for AT&T. “I do think there can be a happy medium of the industry partnership, those who serve and contractors,” he said.

Securing the network requires the precarious act of balancing risk with opportunities, Gen. Baker said. “It also means we’ve really got to study the threat that comes against us in multiple ways, [adversaries’] intentions and their growing capabilities, and the best way to deter them from disrupting the DODIN.

“We must be cognizant of the fact that the days are long gone when we thought … that we possessed superiority in the cyber domain,” Gen. Baker said. “Routinely, we must be prepared to defeat our adversaries who have as much sophistication as we have and are relentless in their desire to disrupt our operations.”

The nature of cyberthreats, and not the emergence of new technologies, propelled the federal government to seek solutions to protect its networks; from leveraging improved hardware systems to undertaking a major cultural shift to creating the next generation of cyber warriors that includes mingling military disciplines of the signal corps, cyber, electronic warfare and others—a monumental tasking the military has dubbed “convergence.”

More than two decades of war and fiscal constraints hamstrung modernization of some networks, particularly the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, Gen. Baker said.

“We have invested in our [Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router] infrastructure in a tremendous way for decades, and continue to do so,” Gen. Baker said. “We have not invested as heavily in our SIPR architecture, but are doing so now, recognizing with 14 years of combat experience the necessity to prioritize our SIPR capacity from an operational perspective.

“Really, the SIPR is the crown jewel of our DODIN enterprise, and we are now embarked on a campaign to do work on modernizing our SIPR architecture over the coming years. But it obviously has to compete for resources like anything else.”

There are solutions available to help reduce the cost of modernizing the secret network, offered John Schleifer, vice president and chief technology officer at L-3 National Security Solutions. The NSA, for example, has a program called Commercial Solutions for Classified and there are a number of companies offer solutions.

The emerging technology landscape right now, which includes mobile, cloud, big data, the Internet of Things, and social media, pose new challenges to organizations and departments on how they enable the work force to access data and how they want to protect their networks, said Schleifer, a former Army signal officer.

Protection concept must go beyond securing network perimeters, Klebonis offered. Cybersecurity will include protecting the applications themselves within the network as well. 

This article was edited from an earlier version on 8/27/15.

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