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CHIPS Articles: DISA flexes combat support skills in Pacific Sentry exercise

DISA flexes combat support skills in Pacific Sentry exercise
By CHIPS Magazine - March 11, 2019
Defense Information Systems Agency personnel from around the world joined thousands of warfighters in U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s annual exercise Pacific Sentry, Feb. 6 – 13.

Most of the action took place at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, but the exercise includes various U.S. military units and commands worldwide in which participants control virtual assets to execute a classified wargame in the INDOPACOM area of responsibility, the agency reported in a release.

In the recently completed iteration of Pacific Sentry – the unilateral command post exercise - Blose served as a “white cell agent,” acting as an exercise narrator.

“During the event, white cell agents observe, evaluate, and ensure the narrative continues, to ensure training objectives are met throughout the exercise,” Blose said.

For DISA participants in the exercise, those training objectives include monitoring real-time cyber threats, and ensuring they’re part of the event – and not a rogue attempt to hack government systems.

“We treat the exercise as a real-world event, and part of that is ensuring the actions in the exercise are just that – a virtual attempt to bypass our systems,” said Blose. “When our systems catch those attempts, we initially treat them as a real-world event. We verify they’re part of the exercise, and then act accordingly.”

Providing DISA staff with the opportunity to strengthen their cybersecurity skills benefits both DISA and its clients, said Marine Lt. Col. Donald Barnes, DISA PAC’s strategy and plans lead.

“DISA is a combat support agency, and we support warfighters,” said Barnes. “In exercises such as Pacific Sentry, we get to test our abilities to provide information technology (IT) support to those warfighters we serve – in this case, combatant commands. This helps build a cohesive picture of the threats within the cyber domain, and our ability to provide global support.”

Barnes explained in addition to providing IT support, DISA assists combatant commands by providing services, such as a system designed to support deliberate and crisis planning, and another that transports full-motion video collected in support of missions led by combatant commands.

However, those capabilities aren’t the most valuable assets the agency provides, Barnes said.

“Of all the capabilities DISA provides, our skilled workforce is our most important asset, and the one that enables the agency to best support its mission partners.”

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