Terry Halvorsen, then-Naval Network Warfare Command deputy commander, in April 2009.

Terry Halvorsen, then-Naval Network Warfare Command deputy commander, in April 2009. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin Ailes

US Military Is Looking to Add AI to Its Cyber Defense

The Pentagon's outgoing chief information officer said the Pentagon has already looked into IBM’s Watson platform.

Data center consolidation continues to vex the Pentagon's top technology officer as he prepares to retire.

"There's still a lot of work to do," Defense Department Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen told reporters Wednesday. He listed lagging data center consolidation efforts as one of his failures.

Though his tenure has seen success in Windows 10 deployment, cloud adoption and new cyber assessments, he expects DOD will continue to work on data center consolidation and strengthening its own cybersecurity, Halvorsen said.

The department is slated to bring a consolidation plan to Capitol Hill in the next few weeks. And in the next administration, Halvorsen said he expects artificial intelligence to play a larger role in cybersecurity, possibly as soon as in the next year and a half.

"The way people actually individually move the mouse becomes very distinctive,” he said, adding that deviations from a user's regular pattern could be a sign of a potential intrusion. "We’re going to learn a lot of lessons there ... if we don’t have a couple quick failures, it probably means we didn’t cast a very wide net."

Artificial intelligence could also help cybersecurity systems better predict intrusions before they happen, alerting administrators if elements need to be quarantined, he said. The goal is to "isolate the problem, reroute around the problem and then destroy the malware or whatever else is impacting the bad stuff on the network.”

The Pentagon has investigated using the Watson capability provided by IBM, Halvorsen said.

President Donald Trump's executive order on cybersecurity—which, according to drafts, would create various cyber review boards and shift responsibility for cybersecurity from CIOs to agency heads—may not have a huge impact on the Pentagon, Halvorsen said. He described his role as an agent of the Pentagon's senior cyber officials.

Tech teams started during Barack Obama's term, including the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, which intends to rapidly invest in and eventually deploy cutting-edge technology, could stick around under Trump, Halvorsen said. DIUx is currently working on replacing common access cards, the identification cards carried by DOD personnel and contractors.

"I think you will find that DIUx will continue and that philosophy, and that culture, will expand out of DIUx to impact other pieces," Halvorsen said.

He said also expects the Defense Digital Service, an offshoot of the U.S. Digital Service started under Obama, to stick around. Trump's administration has expressed support for these groups via internal emails and Twitter, though it's unclear if they'll differ from the Obama versions.

"They're going to continue to be supported," he said, noting that group, which recruits heavily from Silicon Valley tech companies, is essential because members "challenge some of our business and process assumptions."