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CHIPS Articles: Enabling The Future Navy

Enabling The Future Navy
By Robert Foster - July-September 2017
There is no question that seapower is a central element of our nation’s physical security and economic well-being. The challenges to that security are great, complex and growing at an exponential rate that cannot be countered with a Fleet the size we have or with the one that is now authorized. Yet, sheer numbers alone are not the answer. Our future Navy not only needs to be larger, but much more flexible and more technologically advanced.

Recently, Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson published a vision for the future of the Navy (The Future Navy, May 17, 2017) which forcefully makes the case that, in addition to a larger fleet, new operating methods and new technologies will be necessary to maintain our maritime superiority. Some of the urgently needed developments the CNO cites, such as improved cybersecurity and enhanced data-driven capabilities, are areas of focus at DON CIO.

It is the information technology policymaker’s responsibility to study developing trends, determine which may have applicability to the organization, and then craft policy that helps bring about needed change. That is what led to DON CIO’s Data and Analytics Consortium (DAC) initiative.

The rapid advancements in data-driven capabilities are some of the most exciting trends in industry and government. DON organizations produce and record masses of data every day. We have long recognized that value resides in our store of data, but sorting through it has been ponderous, limiting our opportunities to gain value from it.

Today, advances in data science are making it possible to quickly distill insights from reams of data. Knowledge assembled from data can help our leaders make better-informed decisions faster than potential adversaries, providing an invaluable edge for the Fleet. Unmanned vehicles will play a major role in a non-linear expansion of the Navy’s distributed capabilities around the world, and the integration of the data and machine learning collected by these vehicles and other sensors will be essential to the autonomous and synchronized operations of the Fleet.

We established DAC as a forum for those involved in data sharing and analytics to respond to data and decision demands, share best practices, collaborate on related research; and promote the governance, standards, training, and policies necessary to optimize the DON’s data and analytics efforts. The DAC’s initial meeting was received with great enthusiasm and participation by attendees at this year’s DON IT Conferences in San Diego (February), and Norfolk (May). To start, the DON CIO is aggressively working with DON stakeholders to:

  • Design the service management construct necessary to provide data consumers and decision-makers high-quality and high-speed data and analytics services;
  • Expand our collaboration with industry and academia to learn, research, and develop data-driven capabilities such as data science, machine learning, and deep learning; and
  • Learn and apply the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) to support the DON’s ability to better share, integrate, and aggregate data.

The critical nature of cybersecurity has been recognized for years, and the DON CIO Cybersecurity Team is actively engaged with its counterparts at the DoD and Navy and Marine Corps staffs to strengthen the DON’s information security posture. This is being done through improved processes and adjustments to training and certification requirements of the department’s cybersecurity workforce.

One of my primary roles is to serve as the DON Senior Information Security Officer (SISO), with responsibilities that include overall supervision and oversight of the DON’s cybersecurity risk management decision structure. DON CIO, Navy and Marine Corps staffs are actively engaged in planning and implementing an improved process, the Risk Management Framework (RMF), to ensure that the DON’s IT systems, networks and supporting infrastructure ashore are operated and maintained to appropriately manage cybersecurity risk. RMF is presently the best means we have to make certain that when units of the future Fleet require data and communication path reach-back, they will be able to rely on the confidentiality, integrity and availability of those resources.

We are also working with the Navy and Marine Corps staffs to transition from the information workforce program shaped by 2004 DoD guidance to a cybersecurity workforce management and qualification program that fully incorporates education, training, on the job qualification, and continuing learning. Initial education, credentialing, and on the job qualification standards that include military training as a key component are already in place. Additionally, the department has implemented a program that gives cybersecurity personnel in the field the opportunity to make direct contributions to development of new programs and requirements as the cybersecurity environment evolves.

The DON must grow and change quickly in order to remain the powerful instrument for peace that our political leaders need and that the American people expect. DON CIO understands the challenge before us, and is working hard to help bring about that change. The work of the DAC and enhanced cybersecurity processes are producing changes that are beginning to be felt in the Fleet and throughout the department, and enabling the future Navy.

DON CIO Rob Foster
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