AFCEA TechNet Augusta previewThe theme of the 10th annual TechNet Augusta, which focuses on cybersecurity trends and innovations, was “Designing and Deploying a Unified Network.” Hosted by AFCEA International on Aug. 15-18 at the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center in Georgia, the event typically attracts about 5,000 people, including members of U.S. Army Cyber Command, the Army Office of the Chief Information Officer and program executive offices.

The conference is designed with assistance from the Army Cyber Center of Excellence and industry experts. Attendees also got to see demonstrations on the exhibition floor, where 284 GovCon exhibitors presented their solutions.

New fronts

For decades, unrest in the Middle East has been a top concern of the Defense Department, but it is shifting its focus toward China and Russia, areas where fighting is expected to be more technology-driven. In the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine, both sides use cyberattacks to try to gain the upper hand.

“If we’re looking to see how a modern battlefield is impacted by [electronic warfare (EW)] and cyber warfare, we need to look no further than what is going on right now” in Eastern Europe, said Lt. Gen. Maria Gervais, deputy commanding general and chief of staff for Army Training and Doctrine Command. “Everything that we are seeing in Ukraine has implications for a unified network, and almost certainly represents the type of threats we will see.”

In fact, the Army issued the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) strategy for overhauling military communications. It represents a new approach that emphasizes the idea of a unified network, as opposed to the traditional disparate technologies and networks that each Defense Department unit operates. The Army’s focus on unified networks even goes back to AUSA 2021, when the Army’s Unified Network Plan was released as the critical enabler in establishing the branch’s Multi-Domain Operations capable force by 2028.

Brig. Gen. Guy Jones, deputy director and chief of staff of Army Futures Command’s Futures and Concepts Center, used a hypothetical to show how integrating information can help during an operation: “A commander takes in data along with his staff. They have to analyze it so they can gain information, but I think the key piece is how do we then, collectively, with potentially some aids with analytics, turn that into knowledge faster than we’ve been able to do before, for a commander to be able to command.”

What’s more, Army Cyber (ARCYBER) Command is undertaking a renovation project, turning one of its five regional centers into a hub for coordinating worldwide digital operations, said Lt. Gen. Maria Barrett, commander of ARCYBER.

“We’ve got to be talking to each other,” Barrett said. “So having somebody who can synchronize that, among the five, is pretty important.”

Meanwhile, the Army is in the pilot phase of a program to train cyber forces and close technology skills gaps, building on lessons learned from the cyber warfare used early on in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“It requires a little bit of a change in curriculum, a change in approach, a change in our assessment strategy,” said Maj. Gen. Paul Stanton, commander of the Army Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon, Georgia, “but we are absolutely making progress and informing the longer-term way ahead.”

Among new curriculum topics will be zero trust. The center will start teaching it to chief warrant officers as part of another pilot program.

Cleared for cloud

Military leaders also shared that they expect DOD to move faster to the cloud in the next year, which is in line with previous comments from Army CIO Raj Iyer about 2023 being a “year of inflection” for digital transformation. The G-6 is working now with Iyer to determine which data centers to shut down.

“We’ve learned very quickly [that] it’s not about the data center. It’s about the applications and the data that’s in the data center – what is cloud-ready, what is not cloud-ready, etc.,” said Lt. Gen. John Morrison, deputy chief of staff, G-6. “We set up a mechanism where we’re going to be able to go in and essentially, in an automated fashion, audit data centers, understand exactly what’s there.”

Additionally, a new Army Risk Management Council is being staffed to serve as a part of the service’s efforts to match how it authorizes officials who provide oversight through the cyber risk management framework.

DOD embraces BYOD?

The concept of bring-your-own-device, or BYOD, isn’t new in government circles, but it has not had much welcome from military entities. That could change, though. The Army is preparing to start a pilot test this fall that would let the Army Reserve and National Guard connect their devices to the service’s network.

“What that means is, you can now — much like you do in the commercial sector — use your personal device, but we will put a secure capability on it that allows you to log back into the Army network and conduct official business,” Morrison said. “We have done cybersecurity assessments all the way along this journey because if you don’t bake in cybersecurity at the very, very front end and do it continuously, then we obviously open up some holes in our swing. That’s been one of the big concerns about anybody using their personal device to conduct business.”

He credits cloud computing and zero trust for making now the right time to try BYOD.

TechNet Augusta will be back next year, August 14 – 17, 2023. We can’t wait!