Many of the major cybersecurity, data, DevSecOps and other trends from the past couple of years continue to grow and be top priorities for every segment of the Department of Defense (DoD). At TechNet Augusta 2023, Government and industry experts shared the specific needs of their organizations across those areas and solutions to help achieve their goals. The main theme of the event was “Enabling a Data-Centric Army” and expanding those principles and their mobilizing technologies to the entire DoD. For the Army in particular, the shift from hardware to software, the use of artificial intelligence (AI), cloud capabilities and Zero Trust were headlining topics at the conference.
Shifting from Hardware to Software
In an effort to increase agility and expand access to resources, the Army is transitioning its equipment from hardware to software. Amending its materiel release process to decouple software from hardware allows the Army to deploy software outside of the long hardware acquisition cycle. To mobilize this endeavor, the Army Futures Command (AFC), is modifying its software requirements to focus on high-level overviews that are then refined by operators. Alongside this shift, the Army and other departments requested that technology providers ensure that their software solutions integrate with each other. Going forward, the Army also asked industry to provide software that is not tied to specific hardware. This separation will be key to establishing data-centricity. Nearly every speaker echoed the importance of this shift for their departments.
With this major transition to a software-heavy environment, Army Chief Data and Analytics Officer David Markowitz believes it will be an ideal use case for generative AI in software development. Having a controlled environment in software development would make it easier to properly govern compared to the complexity of some of the other uses. As AI usage increases across the DoD, military leaders requested industry create AI platforms with layered complexity of features enabling users of any skill level to utilize the technology effectively. In regard to AI applications for data, Army CIO Leonel Garciga stated that additional guidance on “Data Use on Public/Commercial Platforms” would be released soon to clarify its policy. Overall, officials concurred that the DoD is not looking to become 100% reliant on AI aid but instead maximize AI’s strengths to augment human critical thinking and empower commanders to make data-driven decisions.
Enabling Cloud Capabilities
Over the past year, the Army has exponentially increased its cloud migration and virtualized capabilities. Housing information in the cloud optimizes data storage and simplifies ease of access particularly with the increase in data output, and the push for AI data analytics and data-driven decisions. Hybrid cloud solutions offer the readiness, adaptability and duplication of vital information necessary for military operations to continue smoothly in any situation. Currently, DoD leaders seek industry solutions for modernizing and moving applications to the cloud simultaneously. Acquiring technology with this ability would reduce both the security risk and the work required from the military to implement it.
Expanding Zero Trust
Overarching every aspect of the DoD is the critical need for cybersecurity. Garciga plans to emphasize Zero Trust implementation heavily in conjunction with improving user experience and cyber posture. While multi-factor authentication offers a great starting point, military leaders explained that it is not enough and that they look to partner with industry to close virtualization vulnerabilities through continuous monitoring and regular red teaming. At the conference, the Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER) outlined seven principles for IT providers to follow for all capabilities they deliver:
- Rapidly Patch Software
- Assess All Production Code for Security Flaws
- Improve Security of Development Networks
- Isolate Development Environments from the Internet and from the Vendor Business Network
- Implement Development Network Security Monitoring
- Implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) on Development Network and Testing Services
- Implement Role-based Permissions on Development Network
Empowering DoD Success
A consistent thread woven throughout the event was the vital nature of open communication and partnership between the DoD and technology companies to achieve the established goals. Within each of these areas including the shift from hardware to software, use of AI, cloud capabilities and Zero Trust, the DoD looks to innovate and explore new methods and solutions to stay ahead on the world platform. Together through collaboration, industry can have a vital role in keeping American citizens safe one technology update at a time.
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*The information contained in this blog has been written based off the thought-leadership discussions presented by speakers at TechNet Augusta 2023.*