In QDR, Defense focuses on combating cyberthreats

As expected, the newly released Quadrennial Defense Review suggests an evolution in Pentagon thinking about the role of IT in countering cyberthreats.

Among IT successes, the 113-page review cites the use of computer-guided drone aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan. These 'in-country' unmanned aerial vehicles, noted the QDR, are remotely controlled by operators in Nevada.

President Bush submitted the QDR to Congress along with his fiscal 2007 budget request. The QDR is a report the Defense Department produces every four years that lays out DOD's 20-year projection for transformation.

These 'net-centric reach-backs,' noted the report, 'achieve a level of air-ground integration that was difficult to imagine just a decade ago.'

The immediacy of such communications assets 'is helping joint forces gain greater situational awareness to attack the enemy,' enabling 'faster decision-making and subsequent actions,' according to the QDR.

In the larger scheme, net-centricity wasn't only an enterprise asset but 'a weapons system to be protected' like other parts of the nation's critical infrastructure. Information security is so vital, the document warns, that even cyberattacks from abroad could result in an unspecified 'overwhelming response.'

Foreign nations, and not just individuals or small groups, may be involved in sabotage attempts. China is identified as among 'near-peer competitors' that bear watching, the QDR stressed.

Of DOD's $30 billion IT budget, $2 billion a year is spent on information assurance. Guided by the QDR, the 2007 budget request has increased by $500 million.

Current and evolving cyberthreats, the review added, underscored the need to 'design, operate and defend the network to ensure continuity of joint operations.'

This includes the core of net-centric operations, the Global Information Grid (GIG), which enables the digital collection, communication, storage and management of data for Defense.

Among the steady progress in this area, the QDR stated, is deployment of 'an enhanced land-based network and new satellite constellation''part of the Transformational Communication Architecture. This ensures 'high-bandwidth, survivable Internet protocol communications.'

Notwithstanding successes in integrating data across different enterprises and time zones, the QDR acknowledged 'capability gaps' in military information operations. In all of Iraq, only 133 translators or 'heritage speakers' are deployed, for example.

To close the gaps and ensure seamless communications, DOD would, according to the QDR, 'develop new tools and processes for assessing, analyzing and delivering information to key audiences.'

David Walsh is a freelance writer in Chevy Chase, Md.

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