Navy to Lean On Industry as Cyber Threats Grow


The Navy’s newly released five-year strategic plan for cyber operations calls for enhanced collaboration with industry to meet the service’s demands in the digital realm.

As foreign state and non-state actors enhance their cyber capabilities, U.S. officials are increasingly worried about major breaches and the possibility of a cyber “Pearl Harbor” that could deal a crippling blow to military or civilian networks and infrastructure.

A key priority of the Navy’s cyber plan is improving situational awareness over its networks, according to U.S. Fleet Cyber Command’s “Strategic Plan 2015-2020”, which the Navy released May 6. “Data collection, processing, storage, and transmission capabilities are increasing exponentially, creating a data set too vast to monitor with our currently fielded technologies,” the report said. The Pentagon will look to the private sector to help deal with the problem. 

“Industry has a lot to offer in this regard,” Vice Adm. Jan Tighe, the commander of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, told reporters at the Pentagon. “There are a lot of tools and technologies that are available today that are being piloted, tested and/or deployed in our system that will begin to improve my ability to see [cyber intrusions], much less my ability to then respond.”
She declined to provide details about the new technologies the Navy is investing in, citing security concerns.

“We’ve got to bring [the private sector] in in a way that makes sense that will allow us to share this data across the Department of Defense, at least, [and] optimally across the U.S. government and with our partners… so that we can take advantage of all the information that’s available out there in cyber space to be able to defend better,” Tighe said.

Defense Department networks are attacked thousands of times every day, and the Navy needs to enhance its ability to determine which intrusions are the most threatening and which ones should have lesser priority when it comes to employing defensive measures.

“I’ve got to have a diversity of different kinds of sensors and blocking capabilities and analytic horsepower to be able to respond to that and know which is the most important thing to respond to. So improving those capabilities is what we’re really trying to do,” she told reporters.

The cyber report said that rapid technological advancement will require the Navy to upgrade or replace its cyber technology, including communications equipment, “at a much faster rate.” Pentagon leaders are hoping to reform the acquisition process, especially when it comes to fast-moving fields like cyber.

“From the time that they begin those acquisition processes to the time a [cyber] system is delivered, 50 more zero-day vulnerabilities have been discovered,” Tighe said.

The report said U.S. Fleet Cyber Command will “advocate vigorously for fundamental reforms in how we acquire, field, modernize, and govern systems and new technology — including robust network security requirements for programs of record … and a dramatically accelerated acquisition process.”

New cyber technology isn’t the only thing that the Pentagon is seeking. The defense industry may also be called on to contribute additional personnel to the cyber mission. 

The Navy is in the process of creating 40 “Cyber Mission Force” teams as part of a larger DoD-wide effort to beef up the Pentagon’s cyber capabilities. The report indicated that contractors may be needed to close gaps as the force matures.

“If we lack available personnel to fill the critical roles required for the CMF teams, we will develop contracting strategies that satisfy the requirements in the short term and provide a roadmap toward permanent solutions with appropriately trained Navy military and/ or civilian manning,” the report said.

Topics: C4ISR, Cybersecurity

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