Policy, practices match up at Defense IT conference

Policy, practices match up at Defense IT conference

In the push to transform the military to a network-centric force, one lingering risk has been information assurance, according to Priscilla Guthrie, deputy assistant secretary of Defense and deputy CIO.

"I always thought that IA might be the Achilles heel" of transformation, Guthrie said at the opening general session of the 17th annual Systems and Software Technology Conference in Salt Lake City.

The National Security Agency has been working on an IA policy, she said, and "I think we're very close to signing it and sending it out."

Perimeter protection and defense-in-depth have been the primary means of protecting data integrity, she said, but the military in the future will have to constantly monitor those providing and using data, both insiders and outsiders.

The issue of IA "kept me awake for a long time," Guthrie said. "We didn't do very well" on Federal Information Security Management Act compliance. "How can we do IA ourselves" with a recent grade of D? " Some huge percentage of our IA problem is people and processes," and fixing those involves more than just software.

A second transformation challenge is understanding the use of data. Warfighters need ubiquitous communications and have to be able to draw from the broadest possible pool of information, based on what they consider important, Guthrie said.

To reinforce these points, Maj. Kurt Warner, information and knowledge management officer with the 18th Airborne Corps and the 82nd Airborne Division, traveled from Baghdad to talk about what's happening on the ground.

FusionNet, one of the pilots in the Horizontal Fusion Portfolio Initiative, aims to provide information about both sides of the battle space, he said. The program is a cross-battlefield information system that is both smart-client- and Web-based, he said. It can work across multiple networks, a critical requirement in Iraq where users might need access to the global Centrix network, the Secret IP Router Network and the Non-classified IP Router Network to get all the information they require.

One goal is a "user-defined operational picture--give them the tools to build their own vision of the battlefield," Warner said.

A second benefit is that higher-ups in the chain of command will be able to ask questions directly, "because we're busy," he said.

"Higher echelons, the institutional elements and their industry partners perceive more success in IT solutions than the 'muddy boots' Army," Warner said. "When a congressman from Michigan asked how many females from Michigan were involved in the Fallujah firefight," answering that question was "not as simple as pushing a button."

The drive toward ubiquitous communications and information has changed the flow of information in the military, he said. Field commanders used to ask up the line for information about supplies, troop movements and other important developments. Now, "we ask very few questions upward. It's about 80-20, questions coming downhill," Warner said.

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