DISA director: Industry has a role in Pentagon cloud
- By Sean Lyngaas
- May 12, 2014
Cloud computing developed by government and industry is the Defense Information Systems Agency’s answer to the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history.
“Private [Chelsea] Manning and Mr. [Edward] Snowden have accentuated the need for us to pay attention to the insider-threat arena,” said DISA Director Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins at a May 12 AFCEA event in Baltimore, Md. “We’re making sure that we do that with the volume, the velocity and the variety,” he added, referring to the harvesting of big data to detect threats.
The rationale behind such data consolidation is that the Snowden and Manning disclosures were enabled by a widely dispersed network of data used by defense and intelligence agencies. The leaks may have underlined the importance of the Joint Information Environment – a DOD-wide effort to standardize IT operations – but it is unclear if they accelerated the project’s timetable for completion. There is no clear-cut deadline for rolling out JIE to all geographies and military branches, according to a DISA official.
Hawkins is intent on using the cloud to heuristically analyze insider threats and better understand the movements and capabilities of government personnel, but that is a work in progress. “We believe we’ve got a pretty good defense in depth as we look at what the outsider threat is doing. But in order for us to manage the capabilities and the requirements tied to the insider threat -- that’s where we’re going,” he said.
The Snowden leaks do not seem to have curbed the agency’s ambitious plans for JIE. DISA wants JIE to be accessible anywhere in the world, and for the data within to be secure at rest and in transit, no matter the mobile device used by an employee.
The DISA director also addressed what he described as misconceptions in the defense industry that his agency is hogging its cloud work. Industry is involved in more than 60 percent of DISA’s cloud and over 80 percent of the agency’s telecoms network, he said: “DISA cannot function without industry.”
Sean Lyngaas is the Pentagon correspondent for FCW, where he covers cybersecurity, defense IT and intelligence issues. Prior to that, he was a reporter and editor for Smart Grid Today, the utility industry's journal of record. He has reported for The Atlantic, The Economist and The Washington Diplomat, among other outlets. He is former chair of the Young Members Committee at the National Press Club. Sean earned his B.A. from Duke University and his M.A. from The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University.