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DISA searches for fit with evolving Cyber Command

Jun. 2, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
By | AMBER CORRIN   |   Comments
Admiral Michael Rogers, commander of US Cyber Command, believes DISA will take an expanding role in DoD network defense. (SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images)

As the Defense Department continues to build up its cyber forces, including with the hiring of some 6,000 cyber professionals in the coming months, officials are starting to piece together exactly where the Defense Information Systems Agency will fit in.

U.S. Cyber Command largely spearheads DoD’s ongoing expansion into the cyber domain, with the services and their cyber components falling in line under standardized training programs and various teams of cyber troops dispatched throughout military organizations. It remains unclear, how DISA—a key player in Pentagon network operations, and the lead on the cross-department Joint Information Environment—will fit inro the defense of DoD networks.

Adm. Michael Rogers, just two months into his post as commander of CyberCom and director of the National Security Agency, hopes that DISA will step in to alleviate some of the time-intensive network defense and cyber operations in tandem with continuing efforts to centralize military IT networks under JIE.

“We’ve got to give DISA the ability to create a command and control node that can coordinate with others to defend the [DoD Information Network], and as we bring JIE online and start to operate a truly integrated, global network that's not so oriented around the individual military services, DISA's role gets to be even bigger,” Rogers said May 28 at the AFCEA DC Cyber Summit in Washington. “The military services have had some role up until now in securing four different global backbones, and my attitude is that this is an important role for DISA, and the services need to optimize themselves so that they only operate the last tactical mile and plug into it.”

Also from the Cyber Summit: CyberCom working to build out cyber situational awareness

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DISA, it would seem, is up for the challenge. At the DISA JIE symposium held earlier this month in Baltimore, much discussion centered on JIE’s role in DoD cybersecurity, with DISA serving as a cornerstone in the future of Pentagon network and cyber operations.

“As we build out JIE and the environment of the future, we can help the services,” DISA Director Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins said on May 12. “We’ve already starting offering capabilities so that they can offload the work to DISA, and that can free up their workforce to do other things as well.”

That idea would appear to fit hand-in-hand with what Rogers proposes, but some things would first need to change in terms of organization. Rogers said defense officials are eyeing the creation of a joint forces command headquartered at DISA, which is located on the same campus as CyberCom and NSA at Fort Meade, Md. Taking a more prominent role in network defense likely would require at least some realignment, he said.

“DISA is largely an acquisition and engineering organization,” Rogers said. “For DISA to do what it needs to do in order to help us operate and defend the networks, some portion of DISA needs to become an operational entity that’s focused on how we maneuver and defend the network.”

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