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Air Force CIO Predicts Big Year for Zero Trust

Zero trust could eliminate some networks.
Air Force CIO Lauren Barrett Knausenberger discusses zero trust at TechNet Indo-Pacfic.

Air Force CIO Lauren Barrett Knausenberger discusses zero trust at TechNet Indo-Pacfic.

U.S. Air Force officials expect significant progress this year in implementing zero trust for cybersecurity, according to the service’s chief information officer, Lauren Barrett Knausenberger.

She made the comments while delivering a keynote address on the final day of AFCEA’s TechNet Indo-Pacific conference in Honolulu. She noted that zero trust includes multiple capabilities, including software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN), identity credential access management (ICAM), data fabric and hybrid and edge cloud computing.

Knausenberger told the audience the service should see “a number of progressive steps” this year. “The pathways to cloud—the SD-WAN, the data fabric, ICAM, hybrid and edge cloud—those are all also nested under that zero-trust strategy—and right now we are running as fast as we can on ICAM as the foundation for that,” she said. “I expect us to be able to grow pretty fast next year, and we're putting all the things in place for that now for SD-WAN.”

She added that the service is exploring how to “develop that enterprise stack that everything can connect to,” and how to “assess and fund the things that need to hook in for identity.” Also, service officials spend a lot of time exploring how to implement zero trust for financial systems because “we have an alligator pretty close to the boat on audit.”

 

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Air Force CIO Lauren Barrett Knausenberger
“The pathways to cloud—the SD-WAN, the data fabric, ICAM, hybrid and edge cloud—those are all also nested under that zero-trust strategy."
Lauren Barrett Knausenberger
Air Force CIO

The chief information officer suggested dramatic benefits could come from zero trust. “This concept and the roadmap to this concept means that I can fight in that one environment with my joint partners and my allies, that maybe I don't need 22 different networks at USAFE [United States Air Forces in Europe], that maybe I can collapse Five Eyes in the next two years, maybe I can collapse unclass and secret in the next five, maybe I don't need something called MPE [Mission Partner Environment] because I can tag my data, and I can just make sure that the right people have access to what they need. All of these things are resonating within our warfighting leaders.”

Knausenberger also applauded the cooperation among the military services and Department of Defense. “I was sitting in planning choices six months to a year ago, and I was pretty floored. We're talking about all of these things that we need for the future fight, the jets that we need, the munitions that we need, all of these things. And guess what was at the top of the list—zero trust,” she said. “That's pretty exciting for a technology gal to see that the thing that we most need for the future fight is something in the cyber/information technology community.”

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