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DISA Embraces Joint Information Environment

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SOURCE AFCEA International

Agency leaders explain the benefits and challenges the JIE presents at AFCEA JIE Mission Partner Symposium.

BALTIMORE, May 15, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr., USAF, director, Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), said his organization is altering its internal operational methods by converging into a single service environment. The change is part of the agency's support to the U.S. Defense Department's move toward the Joint Information Environment (JIE) (www.disa.mil/About/Our-Work/JIE).

Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr., USAF, director, Defense Information Systems Agency, describes the agency’s perspective on the Joint Information Environment (JIE) during the AFCEA JIE Mission Partner Symposium held this week at the Baltimore Convention Center, Maryland.

To encourage innovation, DISA is posturing its work force and reorganizing to increase its effectiveness in the changing digital information technology environment, the general added. "The wave of the future is in collaboration and social networking, and we have to get there," Gen. Hawkins stated.

The general made the statements at the AFCEA International JIE Mission Partner Symposium (www.afcea.org/events/jie/14/intro.asp), which took place this week at the Baltimore Convention Center, Maryland. The event featured military, government and industry leaders discussing the benefits the JIE presents and the challenges it poses.

Gen. Hawkins asserted that the department must shift away from its reliance on email as a collaborative tool. "The people who are coming into DOD don't do email. We have to get off of it," he stated. The general asked for industry's assistance in moving into the digital future. "Help us change the rules that are out there now. You know as well as I do that some of them are archaic," he stated.

Other military leaders at the symposium confirmed the general's dedication to change especially with regard to the JIE boosting information security. Lt. Gen. Mark S. Bowman, J-6, the Joint Staff, expanded on Gen. Hawkins' comment about email use and pointed out that it is a major security risk. "Email is the most widely used enterprise service that we have, and it probably is the most common vector for attack," he said. "[It provides] high-speed avenues of approach for the bad guy-he could be a bad guy operating in his garage, or he could be in a [hostile] country."

Gen. Bowman also suggested that the U.S. military develop an internship program to bring in young people with cyber expertise who could be nurtured and developed to become the experts that the Defense Department vitally needs for the future. For example, unused barracks could be converted into free housing for cyber interns who would learn about military cyber opportunities by working directly with like-minded experts at Aberdeen and DISA. "Maybe we can grow a culture and make them aware of what we do," he offered.

The general wasn't the only expert at the symposium who believes it is time to cultivate cybersecurity expertise through nontraditional avenues. Lars Buttler, managing director, Madison Sandhill Global LLC, offered an even more unusual idea: hire hackers. "Why make every hacker an enemy?" he asked. "There are many people who would help find breaches on our side-if only we would just treat them better." Buttler added that hackers might appreciate compensation other than money. "It could be standing in the community," he suggested.

Although moving to the JIE poses challenges, Gen. Bowman believes it is "absolutely necessary for every future operation." He noted that previous efforts at a JIE began but fell by the wayside. This cannot be allowed to happen again, he said. "Together we can make JIE a reality," he declared. "We can't kick it down the road. … We had a requirement to have a JIE 10 years ago, and we … missed it," he said.

DISA's leaders agreed that the Defense Department in general and the agency in particular will require industry's assistance in moving the JIE forward. For example, David Bennett, DISA's chief information officer, explained that the commercial cloud could host a variety of capabilities at low cost and with minimum vulnerability.

"We need industry to help us understand and think through what it means to provide a capability from a platform anywhere in the world and deliver it to a desktop without spending a lot of time and effort," he stated. These capabilities must meet the performance requirements the customer expects, Bennett added.

Additional JIE Mission Partner Symposium coverage is available online (http://www.afcea.org/events/jie/14/coverage.asp?ev=237).

AFCEA International, established in 1946, is a nonprofit organization provides its members with a forum for the ethical exchange of information. It is dedicated to increasing knowledge through the exploration of issues relevant to information technology, communications and electronics for global security. Join the association of choice online.

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