Official outlines challenges in securing DOD communications

  • Published
  • By Nick Simeone
  • American Forces Press Service
The threat of a cyberattack that would disrupt or deny connectivity is one of many information technology challenges the Defense Department faces, the Pentagon's chief information officer said here June 12.

"There's nothing that we do in DOD from the standpoint of mission security that does not rely on connectivity," Terri Takai told an audience of private-sector leaders and government information technology communities at the FedTalks 2013 conference.

Everyone seems to take connectivity for granted, Takai said, but maintaining it requires security measures, and a cyberattack could circumvent those measures.

"We have to think about how we will operate when that connectivity is disrupted or denied," she said.

It's an enormous challenge. With a budget of $39 billion spread across all four military branches and 40 defense agencies, Takai is charged with providing secure communications for the entire military.

"I support over 3.3 million people," she said. "We're located in 153 countries, and many of those countries are a challenge for being able to get connectivity. And then we're probably in more than 6,000 locations all over the world."

In addition to cyber threats, Takai said, the Defense Department's information technology community also must work through shrinking budgets, challenges posed by nations or groups that DOD partners with, and changing missions.

For example, she said, the Defense Department's shift toward the Asia-Pacific region means fewer U.S assets on the ground and more in the air and at sea. This requires new arrangements for a range of communications, including increased use of satellites, both government and commercial.

"It changes the dynamics of the way we look at how we provide communication capabilities," Takai said, and new partners in the region will have to be included in secure communications networks.

"That's a whole different group of countries to work with," she added, "and for me it's a whole different set of countries to be thinking about, 'How am I going to connect in a very secure way?'"