The U.S. Navy has gone past wanting a new information architecture to needing one at the risk of losing a future combat operation. The sea service faces a grim future unless it quickly turns around current information technology trends that are doing it more harm than good.
Historically, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has been the driver of technological innovation, inventing remarkable capabilities to empower warfighter mission effectiveness and improve warfighter safety. Yet over the past 25 years, a transformational shift has taken place in several key technology sectors, and technology leadership in these sectors is no longer being driven by the military, but rather by the private sector.
The need for next-generation networking solutions is intensifying, and for good reason. Modern software-defined networking (SDN) solutions offer better automation and remediation and stronger response mechanisms than others in the event of a breach.
But federal administrators should balance their desire for SDN solutions with the realities of government. While there are calls for ingenuity, agility, flexibility, simplicity and better security, implementation of these new technologies must take place within constraints posed by methodical procurement practices, meticulous security documentation, sometimes archaic network policies and more.
Government IT professionals have clear concerns about the threats posed by careless and untrained insiders, foreign governments, criminal hackers and others. For the government, cyber attacks are a matter of life. We must deal with them as a common occurrence.
Native plant life could join traffic cameras, motion detectors and enemy sensor systems as future sources of battlefield information if the U.S. Army Research Laboratory has its way. The laboratory is applying the Internet of Things approach to theater command, control, communications, computers and intelligence as it plans to equip soldiers and their leaders with vital knowledge from nontraditional information sources, and it is leaving no stone—or crop—unturned in its efforts.
After analyzing lessons learned from a delay-riddled transition to Networx, where a 33-month long process resulted in a costly overrun of about $395 million, the General Services Administration (GSA) came well prepared to make the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract transition a much smoother process.
The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and IBM are collaborating on a brain-inspired supercomputing system powered by a 64-chip array. The laboratory is investigating applications for the system in embedded, mobile, autonomous settings where limiting factors today include size, weight and power.
As an end-to-end software ecosystem, the scalable platform would enable deep neural-network learning and information discovery. Its advanced pattern recognition and sensory processing power would be the equivalent of 64 million neurons and 16 billion synapses; however, the processor component only will consume approximately 10 watts, the equivalent of a dim light bulb.
Organizations today must deal with an avalanche of big data and the advanced computing requirements that are driven by so much data. To cover the accelerated speeds and throughput needs they increasingly face, their information systems require increased network speeds and upgrades as well as improved security and monitoring tools.
Let’s face it—we have a lot to learn about cybersecurity. For weeks, the FBI and Apple squared off in an epic and public battle over encryption—the Holy Grail for cybersecurity warriors. “Help us break the iPhone,” said the FBI. “The risk is too great, too many will be harmed,” Apple retorted. But the battle was over before the parties fully engaged. The FBI found someone to hack the iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters and said, “Never mind, problem solved.”
Does this make you feel secure? With attacks launched every day, I don’t think so.
The information technology infrastructure, processes and solutions that government agencies rely on are becoming less suitable for today’s operational, mission and business challenges, says Federal CIO Tony Scott, the government’s top chief information officer.
In a white paper that compares available information transport technologies, experts from Aspera Incorporated tackle the topic of moving big data quickly over wide area networks. “The loss-based congestion control in TCP AIMD [transfer control protocol additive-increase-multiplicative-decrease] has a deadly impact on throughput,” they state. “Every packet loss leads to retransmission and stalls the delivery of data to the receiving application until retransmission occurs. This can slow the performance of any network application but is fundamentally flawed for reliable transmission of bulk data.”
The increased dependence on interconnected networks propelled the Defense Department to seek viable solutions to not just counter the upsurge of cyberthreats, but to do so at much quicker speeds.
“The cyberthreat is also growing and evolving, driving us to move faster to increase our cyber resilience,” says Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, USA, director of command, control, communications and computers/cyber for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Some of the hackers who have persistently attacked Lockheed Martin’s networks have “gone quiet” in recent months, officials told reporters yesterday at an Arlington, Virginia, media summit hosted by the company’s recently restructured Defense and Intelligence Solutions division. “We’ve seen a number of the adversaries—I wouldn’t say they’ve disappeared—but they’ve gone quiet,” said Darrell Durst, Lockheed Martin’s vice president, cyber solutions. “I think we have been able to counter a number of the adversaries relative to our networks.”
A recently announced study by Juniper Networks found that 51 percent of government information technology decision makers plan to adopt software-defined networking (SDN) within the next two years. Twenty-five percent of government respondents to the Software-Defined Networking Progress Report said improved performance and more efficient networks will be the primary benefit, while 18 percent cited simplified network operations.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) primary external advisory board today announced a report calling for the agency to increase its staff of cryptography experts and to implement more explicit processes for ensuring openness and transparency to strengthen its cryptography efforts. In making its recommendations, the Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology (VCAT) specifically addressed NIST’s interactions with the National Security Agency (NSA).
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Bechtel BNI are joining forces to a new class of cyberdefense professionals to protect the nation’s critical digital infrastructure. The Bechtel-Lawrence Livermore-Los Alamos Cyber Career Development Program is designed to allow the national labs to recruit and rapidly develop cybersecurity specialists who can guide research at their respective institutions and create solutions that meet the cyberdefense needs of private industry, which owns about 80 percent of the nation’s critical digital infrastructure and assets.
Research on the state of cybersecurity of the U.S. critical infrastructure companies reveals that 67 percent have experienced at least one security compromise that led to the loss of confidential information or disruption to operations during the past year. In addition, 24 percent of a survey’s respondents said the compromises involved insider attacks or negligent privileged information technology users. Only 6 percent provide cybersecurity training for all employees.
U.S. Defense Department networks will need to operate with the minimum security available as connectivity and the threat picture evolve, said a top defense official. Terry Halvorsen, acting Defense Department chief information officer, minced no words as he described how tight budgets are limiting options across the board.
“I want for all these networks, the minimum level of security to get the mission done,” Halvorsen declared. “If we try to do the best security everywhere, we will not get to what we want. We don’t have the money; we don’t have the time.”
U.S. Defense Department data will be invading the commercial world as the department moves its unclassified information out of its own hands. Terry Halvorsen, acting Defense Department chief information officer, described the upcoming move at the Wednesday luncheon of the AFCEA International Cyber Symposium, being held June 24-25 in Baltimore.
Ongoing budget cuts place the Defense Department in a challenging situation, tasked with continually supporting warfighters on an increasingly tight budget. The most direct route for the department to accomplish mission goals and support warfighters is through information technology innovation. And so to quote Gen. William L. Shelton, USAF: “If there was ever a time for innovation, this is it.”