Info assurance should include sharing, general says

HONOLULU — The Defense Department is focusing its information assurance efforts too much on protection and not enough on sharing and availability, according to a senior official at U.S. Pacific Command.

Speaking this week at the AFCEA Asia-Pacific 2003 conference, Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert Dierker, deputy commander of PACOM, said the term information assurance usually conjures images of information security or protection. But just as important, he said, is equal emphasis on information distribution and sharing.

"One big dilemma we face every day is, how do we share information with our allies, coalition partners and other agency partners while protecting it from our adversaries?" Dierker said. "Our failure to share information is almost as problematic as the consequences of our adversaries' interception of it."

A much better balance needs to be achieved, Dierker said. The term assurance should mean that users "have great confidence in the information that it is accurate, secure and accessible by those who need it to support the mission, while still being protected from disclosure to our enemies," he said.

Networks need to be fluid and able to adapt to rapid changes that accompany operations worldwide, he said. There are many cases where some allies and adversaries end up swapping roles, depending on what the collaboration context is, he said.

"For example, a humanitarian assistance partner could very well turn out to be a security assistance adversary," Dierker said. "Sometimes, even among strong allies, we have information-sharing challenges. And for that matter, sometimes even among our own services as well."

DOD officials have been working on an official information assurance policy document for about seven months, and want to have a more substantive plan prepared by next October.

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