NSA's Rogers: JIE crucial to cyber defense

The Defense Department's move to a Joint Information Environment can't come soon enough for National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers.

Michael Rogers

Adm. Michael Rogers is director of National Security Agency and head of U.S. Cyber Command.

The Defense Department's move to a Joint Information Environment cannot come soon enough for National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers, who said June 24 that the department-wide IT platform will provide DOD the network visibility it needs to repel cyberattacks.

"We have a network structure within the Department of Defense that is still largely aligned along [military] service lines," Rogers said June 24 at an AFCEA cybersecurity conference in Baltimore. "Where I believe we ultimately need to go is a network structure that has a joint global backbone, and that the service has become responsible for how you plug in to the last tactical mile."

Reliance on a "service-centric approach to networks" has cost DOD a great deal of money and manpower, said Rogers, who also heads U.S. Cyber Command. The Defense Information Systems Agency, which is responsible for implementing JIE, "can't see into service networks very well right now," he added. "And I would tell DISA, 'So you tell me how you're going to defend something that you can't see [and] you don't truly understand?'"

U.S. Cyber Command does not have authority over DISA, which is why Rogers said he recently told Acting DOD CIO Terry Halvorsen that he'd like to apply their shared experience defending Navy networks to department-wide efforts to do so. The NSA director's goal, he said, is to help "put DISA in a position where it can actually see [the network] end-to-end, and then DISA, collaborating with the services, can truly be agile in defending it."

This makes DISA central to U.S. Cyber Command's defensive operations, he said, adding that in the fall the department plans to unveil a "C2 [command and control] construct that we're hoping to create where DISA can execute those functions." What that "C2 construct" entails was left to conjecture; Rogers declined to speak with reporters after his speech.

A DISA official said last month that there is no clear-cut deadline for rolling out JIE to all geographies and military branches.

Rogers also said June 24 that without close collaboration with the private sector, the Defense Department's ability to defend the country from sophisticated cyberattacks is limited. During his tenure as head of U.S. Cyber Command, he predicted, "this nation will see, either from another nation-state or a group or a set of individuals, efforts designed to cause destructive cyber impacts against U.S. critical infrastructure."

Rogers succeeded Gen. Keith Alexander as head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command in April.

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