The Department of Defense’s (DoD) network is critical to its ability to carry out its mission. Unfortunately, technology, governance and operational issues have made these networks vulnerable to outages, failure and intentional disruption. There are a number of elements that cause these disruptions, from the technology at use, to the complexity of the network itself to the changing nature of warfare. Addressing all of these challenges will be essential to building a resilient and robust network capable of handling DoD’s many needs.
Cybersecurity executive orders from the Obama and Trump administrations have been too high-level to provide real solutions. Several efforts specifically tackling today’s technology challenges are already underway, however, as government contractors work to improve secure, wireless access to classified networks and develop new network algorithms and protocols. These technology updates are necessary, however they are only one part of a long-term solution. In addition to network software, government and military organizations must also look at its network hardware and organizational dynamics.
Network designs, which are comprised of a number of unique, smaller pieces, are inherently large and complex. Often, there is no one single entity that controls them; that responsibility is split between an equally complex hierarchy that manages their many different segments. This can cause the process to update or change the networks to be expensive and impractical. In addition to considering new technologies, viable long-term network solutions must consider modernizing this structure.
A disciplined structure, where procedures and processes follow a strict chain of command, is natural and necessary to DoD. For this system to work expediently, however, requires ample communication and cooperation between teams. Resilient and robust networks are paramount to fulfilling this need. They must be equipped to handle the many types of conditions and terrain that warfighters encounter on mission, and made so that a disruption in one area will not shut down the whole network. Addressing this complex structure and transforming it to be more amenable to today’s challenges not only improves communication, allowing for decisions to be made more quickly, but also enhances the strength of the network overall.
Government and military leaders recognize the need to update DoD’s network for the modern era. Agencies must update not only the technology they use, but their internal structures, policies and procedures in order to adapt to present day challenges and develop the resiliency they need to fulfill their missions and become truly integrated.
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