DOD deputy CIO outlines challenges: Handling threats, new tech with shrinking budgets

This story has been updated to correct Robert Carey's title within DOD.

The Defense Department has a difficult path to follow over the next several years when it comes to managing and defending its computer networks. Shrinking budgets, cyber threats, the introduction of new technologies and management of ongoing military operations are just a few of the tasks that are keeping the department on its toes, said Robert Carey, the Defense Department's deputy CIO.

Speaking at the 2011 Executive Leadership Conference in Williamsburg, Va., Carey said one of his job’s main challenges is providing secure service and access to warfighters. Military personnel expect to be able to connect into the network wherever they are, and he added that implied in this connectivity is trust that the data is secure and accurate.

Among the issues facing DOD’s ability to provide secure data to its forces are:

  • Exploding technological frontiers.
  • Demanding operational scope.
  • Increasing cyber threats.
  • Shrinking budgets.
  • Demanding efficiencies.

Carey reached out to the government IT audience for assistance in achieving the DOD’s network security goals. “This is like a team sport,” he said.

DOD is also trying to eliminate the stovepipes in its cybersecurity operations. But it is difficult to move from unique, proprietary systems to universally accessed capabilities that are useful across service boundaries, he said.

Despite its necessity, cybersecurity must not stifle innovation, Carey said. Instead, security measures must be “baked in” from a program or technology’s beginning, rather than bolted on as an afterthought, he added.

But DOD still has some security hurdles to clear. These include digital persona protection and mobility. Although the military has a very clear idea of personal security and how to provide it, protecting an individual’s online persona from hackers is an issue that it is still working out.

The other major effort facing DOD is embracing commercial wireless technology in a manner that is both economical and secure. With some 1.4 million active-duty personnel and several large wireless projects under way, DOD is trying to meet its goal of providing secure wireless access while its budgets are under pressure. “This is a very different focus on the problem than it was before,” he said

Some of the mobile issues that the DOD is currently wrestling with include:

  • Enterprise management.
  • Data protection.
  • Access control.
  • Public-key Infrastructure.
  • Software/applications.
  • Training.

However, Carey said that mobile devices require an overview that focuses on their security capabilities. This is important because military handheld devices must be able to access classified data, he said.

The department is also examining cloud computing options, which it has laid out in its DOD IT Enterprise Strategy and Roadmap, Carey said. One of the department’s ongoing efforts is consolidating its numerous data centers to make the system more efficient. But the ultimate shape of the network will be driven by the budget profile. “There’s just no two ways about it,” he said.


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