man putting on latex gloves in data center

DOD mulls using AI to check contractor cyber hygiene

To ensure its contractors are following cybersecurity standards, the Defense Department is considering a model in which a company certified by the organization would use artificial intelligence to check a subcontractors' security posture against the National Institute of Standards and Technology cybersecurity standards.

Speaking at a Jan. 29 Senate Armed Services Cybersecurity Subcommittee hearing on Department of Defense policies and threats, DOD CIO Dana Deasy said that "a lot of the problems that have occurred … come back many times to basic hygiene." And because contractors were "an extension of what we do," they must be treated as a part of the department’s own networks.

The goal is to better to enforce compliance and move away from a self-certification process to one where DOD's under secretary for defense acquisition and sustainment would evaluate and validate the self-assessments, then assign confidence scores.

There's discussion on the right approach to combing through the entire defense industrial base's cybersecurity posture, Deasy said, adding that artificial intelligence will likely be able to play a future role in protecting the supply chain.

"Looking at how do you take your entire supply base, the NIST standards, the hygiene problems we see, can you apply AI to this problem to start to identify where you may most likely are going to experience problems in the supply chain?" he asked. "This is a good case where we can apply machine learning in looking at this problem."

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.