Brig. Gen. Lorna Mahlock talks about how the service is looking to gain technical advantage.
Brig. Gen. Lorna Mahlock shown here as a colonel and commanding officer of Marine Air Control Group 18 on the Marianas Islands in 2016. (Photo credit: USMC/Lance Cpl. Makenzie Fallon.)
The Defense Department is grappling with aging infrastructure and massive network modernization efforts. But for the Marine Corps, it's a little different -- and Brig. Gen. Lorna Mahlock, the Corps' new CIO, is looking for transformative solutions to fix that.
"One of the things that's really, really important that I'm looking at industry to do is help modernize the network in a different way," Mahlock said during a panel at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association Northern Virginia Chapter's Naval IT Day Oct. 1.
"As you think about the network at the tactical edge, intelligence is going to drive how we use our network, how we deploy our network. So you have to be able to think about the ability to maneuver the network" in a threat-informed environment and "utilize the capabilities that [industry] offers us to help us deter the enemy whether in the Pacific or Europe or Russia."
Mahlock emphasized network and data center modernization, as well as cultivating talent, as top challenges.
"From our perspective, we have a culture, we have an ethos that is uniquely Marines Corps. So we're looking for people who want to do damage to the enemy in cyberspace and we're looking for models to get those folks," she said.
The Defense Department has admitted to challenges with retaining cyber workers, often due to pay constraints or having too few to choose from and train. But one thing that stuck out was Mahlock's linking issues with cyber workforce to internal processes, not a lack of talent.
"There's a lot of talent out there, the challenge for us as an institution is are we agile enough," she said. "Are we open enough in our thinking to leverage that talent?"
Ultimately, Mahlock said, "this is about winning," so the goal is to let the warfighter focus on fighting, not the network.
"I want our Marines to focus on war fighting, so if there's things that others do well, let others do them" well for the USMC, she said.