DOD CIO: Industry needs to do better

Terry Halvorsen

Department of Defense CIO Terry Halvorsen

Private industry needs to focus on building partnerships to meet DOD's cyber needs, says Department of Defense CIO Terry Halvorsen.

"Rarely is one company going to offer me the perfect solution, or the 90 percent solution," said Halvorsen. "You've got to come in thinking or bringing those partnership agreements with you."

Addressing a conference of public and private sector cyber professionals at the AFCEA NOVA Warfighter IT Day, Halvorsen said DOD is increasingly buying off the shelf technologies rather than developing systems and platforms in house, but industry still needs to be more responsive to DOD's needs.

Halvorsen expressed frustration with what he characterized as the risk averse nature of some industry partners and their volume of lawyers.

"I'm about ready to say I'm not going to talk to individual companies sometimes, particularly when I can see the space is there for the partnerships to be there," he said.

While he said that industry needs to bring better solutions, he also argued that DOD needs to partner better with industry by focusing on mission and capabilities rather than pushing out requirements.

"It's time we have a cyber tactics conversation," he said.

As an example, Halvorsen riffed on what tops his Christmas list from industry.

He said he wants a box about the size of a cellphone that operates in every communications range and mode possible, and that can function on the front lines.

"Could I use cellular technology in the battlefield, encrypted, hard to jam," he pondered. "Maybe have like this small really cheap drone flying over a Stryker unit, pumping down very accurately tuned wireless... Could I connect it to a wired box?" he continued. "And then could it be a standard radio, all in one form factor?

"And maybe it has it in something that might help me detect IEDs, and could do precision navigation and timing that I could target with," he said to the crowd.

If industry could develop that device, Halvorsen said he'd buy it.

He also raised the example of frequency hopping radio as a model of a capacity DOD needs. "I want that in every form of [communications], I want that across the board. I don't know what the frequency-hopping equivalent of networks is, but I want it," he said in another challenge to industry in attendance.

DOD, meanwhile, must work better with industry to share data on cyber compromises it discovers, Halvorsen said. He said DOD must form coalitions with industry to share information on compromises at the speed that they occur.

He also stressed that "industry is going to have invest in some more secret-level clearances," because there is only so much unclassified information DOD can share with partners about cyber compromises.

Ultimately, Halvorsen stressed that technology change will only get faster, and everyone needs to be more agile.

"I want to test [new technologies] in a small way, because what I want to be able to do is both succeed and fail fast. What is more important is that we fail fast and we fail small," he said.

"That means we've got to continue to get better at how do we move faster? How do we partner faster? How do we collaborate faster?" he said.

About the Author

Sean Carberry is a former FCW staff writer who focused on defense, cybersecurity and intelligence.


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