DISA director: Industry has a role in Pentagon cloud

hands and cloud

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.”

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group