DISA creates DMZ to boost security on unclassified network

'Demilitarized zone' would enable secure sharing, officials say

The Defense Information Systems Agency has created a "demilitarized zone" for unclassified applications to help manage access and improve security between the public Internet and Unclassified but Sensitive IP Router Network (NIPRNet), according to Dave Mihelcic, DISA's CTO.

The DMZ protects against cyberattacks, he said. In the case of a cyber attack, the DMZ would allow increased security while still leaving critical servers open to the Internet as necessary

DISA has taken a leadership role in locking down military cybersecurity, and the DMZ is one of two programs that are emerging as key components to maintaining the security of DOD’s most sensitive data, officials have said.

“We have to share information safely,” said Richard Hale, DISA chief information assurance executive. “If we break sharing, we’ve broken a lot of things…but we still have to keep things secret.” Hale and Mihelcic spoke as part of a DISA panel at a luncheon held in Arlington, Va., and sponsored by the DC chapter of AFCEA.


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The DMZ is “a collection of services to secure both inbound and outbound traffic, and control what is exposed and what isn’t,” Mihelcic said.

According to Hale, the DMZ concept – which he said will be re-named "Project Lightning" because “DMZ is the worst name possible” – emerged from combatant commanders’ need to take mission risks without putting other commands and leaders at risk.

“This will let us improve sharing; no more one-size-fits-all NIPRNet, and no one-size-fits-all reactions to problems on NIPRNet,” Hale said. He said the design and network restructure plans for Project Lightning/DISA DMZ have been agreed upon and will take about two years to roll out across all DOD networks.

Also being implemented is the DISA command center (DCC), which is designed to fill the gap between the closure of Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations and the establishment of U.S. Cyber Command. The command center will provide continuous oversight of DISA’s network and 13 subordinate regional operations centers.

“The DCC’s primary job is to be the synchronizer and director of all those operations centers to develop tactics, techniques and procedures to make sure the infrastructure is responsive,” said Larry Huffman, DISA principal director of Global Information Grid systems. “It will be the eyes and ears for the director and for the seniors of the agency. As we see issues out in the infrastructure, those get fed back so we can quickly fix things and mitigate issues in the field.”

Huffman said the center will employ a mix of 220 contractors, civilian employees and military personnel, and is currently at about 60 percent strength. The DCC is expected to be fully operational when DISA moves to Ft. Meade, Md.

Panelists also discussed the increasing focus on contractor accountability, which DISA is pursuing beginning with an upcoming performance-based Global Solutions Management (GSM) contract award, expected by Feb. 16.

Tony Montemarano, DISA component acquisition executive, acknowledged that moving to a performance-based contract is new to the agency, but stressed that DISA has worked hard to ensure a level playing field despite the complicated nature of the contracts.

He also said the agency's move to performance-base contracts is part of broader DOD plans – so industry needs to get ready.

“In addition to the normal contracting issues, you have to recognize that we have this insatiable desire for situational awareness and security,” he said. “We are going to want to have visibility into your solutions and those solutions are going to have to be secure in accordance with whatever we happen to tell you it has to be secured with, and that varies. The point is that you have to walk into it eyes open.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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