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Competition for Cyber Talent Drives New Army and DHS Efforts

There is rarely a day that goes by when you won’t see a top story on cybersecurity and the scarcity of people with the right IT security skills to address the growing challenges. It is this very demand for skilled cybersecurity staff that is driving some new, creative, and some might say bold efforts by the Army and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to raise up, recruit, and retain talent.

The Department of Defense (DoD) may be the one federal entity where building a cyber workforce is the most prominent, as they continue to grow a cadre of uniformed cyberwarriors to staff various cyber commands and other network defense organizations, like the Joint Task Force-DoD Information Networks (JTF-DoDIN). However, building the force is only part of the challenge. Once their tour of service commitment is fulfilled these skilled cyberwarriors often have the attractive option to land high-paying jobs in the private sector, so the sustainability of a cyber-force is a major DoD priority.

Recognizing these realities is a driving force behind the establishment of the Army Reserve's Cyber Private Public Partnership, or Cyber P3, among the DoD, universities and private employers. In recent comments in a story by Nextgov, Cyber P3 program manager Lt. Col. Scott Nelson said that the program is trying to answer key questions of "how do we retain the investment the Army made in that soldier" and also "allow them to get a really good job with our industry partners?"

Maximizing the return on investment in cybersecurity personnel is not the only item on the Cyber P3 agenda. They also want to enhance the pipeline of skilled cyber personnel through building parallel cybersecurity education and training programs among military and universities. In that pursuit, several universities, companies and federal agencies are collaborating on the effort with the goal of establishing 3,500 to 5,000 Army reserve cyberwarriors that can be at the ready when the need arises. Among the 21 private companies that have already stepped up to help transition service members into civilian careers include Citibank, Microsoft, Fox Entertainment and Chevron, according to the Nextgov report. (Read more about Cyber-P3 here and here.)

The Pentagon is not the only federal agency looking to industry to bolster its long-term cybersecurity posture. The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced at the RSA Conference in San Francisco that DHS is opening a cybersecurity branch office in Silicon Valley to “strengthen critical relationships… and ensure that the government and the private sector benefit from each other’s research and development.” Collaboration and synergy is not the only thing on Johnson’s mind, however. He’s recruiting. He intends to “convince some of the talented workforce in Silicon Valley to come to Washington,” highlighting the new United States Digital Service program that provides mechanisms for tech talent in private industry to complete a “tour of service” within government agencies. But on a more formal level, Johnson is “on the hunt” for a cybersecurity “all-star” to head up DHS' National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), promising a direct reporting and communications line to the department Secretary, i.e. Himself.  

These efforts, and others, underscored the ongoing urgency and scope expansion of cybersecurity into nearly every area of modern life. As the “Internet of Things” (IoT) continues to march on – bringing digitization, sensor-ization and connectivity to everything from communications to home appliances and motor vehicles – securing this infrastructure from exploitation and destruction becomes even more critical. Further, the farther down the cybersecurity road we go, the more it becomes apparent that there is only so much we may be able to automate with tools – at least for now. This is especially true when it comes to decision-making and rapid response. Skilled people are critical, in high demand, and in short supply.

These efforts by the DoD, DHS, and others will take time to build the pipeline necessary to meet the demand. It will likely take years, not a cheerful prospect when one considers the growing threats we face. Meanwhile, the competition for these skills will remain fierce. 

Progress Continues on Cyber-Physical Framework

During the summer of 2014, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) kicked off a working group effort to develop a framework and roadmaps for cyber physical systems. Mid January 2015, this public working group focused launched the second phase of its work. 

Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are often simply referred to as “smart” systems. These co-engineered systems comprise interacting networks of physical and computations components. The influx of smart technologies has expanded CPS domains to include infrastructure (grid, water, gas), buildings, emergency response, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, and numerous others. The public working group aims to take a multi-domain perspective to ensure the research, development and deployment guidance it produces will be applicable within all CPS domains as well as supporting cross-domain applications. In particular, this group intends to address needs for a common lexicon and taxonomy as well as a reference architecture. 

These working group efforts began during the summer of 2014 with plans for the first several phases over the course of a year. The first face-to-face meeting during August launched the first phase of the initiative to draft a framework for the CPS elements. This work produced draft reports from each of the five subgroups – Reference Architecture, Use Cases, Cybersecurity, Timing, and Data Interoperability. Following the launch of the first phase, the subgroups organized meeting and collaboration to create initial documents that would eventually combine as elements of the CPS framework. 

All five subgroups completed their documents by the close of 2014, so now efforts are underway to integrate and review the work. This second phase aims to produce a combined framework document by integrating the work completed by the subgroups and refining it further. The third phase of the work will result in a CPS technology roadmap which will identify opportunities for additional collaboration and propose a timeline for follow-on efforts to address key technical challenges. 

According to the current timeline, the combined framework is expected to be finalized this spring.  The group is scheduled to have its next face-to-face meeting in April, which will conclude the framework phase and launch the roadmap activities. A draft of the roadmap is anticipated in June 2015, followed by a month of review before its finalized in July. Another, related effort underway is also being led by the NIST Engineering Laboratory’s Smart Grid and Cyber-Physical Systems Program Office. The Cyber-Physical Testbed Development Workshop is scheduled for February 24-25, 2015 and will explore future research and development areas for CPS. 

Ultimately, these efforts hope to head off several trends like the sector-specific applications of cyber-physical system deployments and the expansion of the Internet of Things without a foundation of interoperability. By drawing stakeholders from government, industry, and academia, the working group hopes to address the increasing need for systems-of-systems solutions to integrate CPS across domains. For insights on how CPS and other technologies are shaping the federal landscape, check out the Federal Industry Analysis team’s recent report on emerging federal technology markets.


Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about GovWinIQ. Follow me on twitter @FIAGovWin.


New JIE Requirements May Help the “Internet of Things” at the DoD

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is a pretty common phrase these days, with the rapid-expanding interconnectivity of devices and sensors sending information across communications networks, all to achieve greater capabilities, effectiveness, efficiency, and flexibility.  The Department of Defense (DoD) clearly links the growth of emerging, interconnected technologies to the sustained superiority of U.S. defense capabilities, on and off the battlefield, so you could say that the IoT impacts defense IT at all levels.

The key to leveraging the IoT is in harnessing and integrating three key areas:

  • Information – Data from devices and sensors, (e.g. phone, camera, appliance, vehicle, GPS, etc.) and information from applications and systems, (e.g. social media, eCommerce, industrial systems, etc.) provide the content input.
  • Connectivity – Network connections via various wireless capabilities and communications backbones provide the transport links for aggregation and distribution. This facilitates the environment where data meets the power to use that data.
  • Processing – The computational capacity and capabilities to make the data content useful.  This may reside at the device and/or back end and ranges in complexity, (e.g. data analytics, etc.)


DoD Implications

The use of integrated networks to connect data with processing capacity to affect outcomes is far from a new idea at the DoD – it gave us much of the warfighting capabilities we have today. But technological evolution has resulted in a growing IoT mentality that goes beyond combat operations. One example is the establishment of the Air Force Installation Service Management Command (AFISMC) to coordinate management and maintenance of resources across Air Force bases and facilities. According to Air Force CTO Frank Konieczny, potential uses of IoT include facilities and vehicle management, logistics and transportation, integrated security, and robotics.

But pervasive connectivity is also creating security ramifications.  In the wake of a network security incident last year, the Navy launched Task Force Cyber Awakening (TFCA) in an effort to protect hardware and software Navy-wide as IoT engulfs everything from weapons systems to shipboard PA systems.

Importance of the JIE

The drive to leverage sensor technologies and data analytics that these technologies enable is a driving force behind the DoD’s Joint Information Environment (JIE) network modernization efforts, so the pace of sensor-based innovation is tied to the success of JIE efforts. Adding potentially tens of thousands of diverse Internet-connected objects to a network that then need to be managed and secured will require proactive IT governance policies to ensure effectiveness, and some provisions in recent law apply.

The FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed just last month, requires the DoD CIO to develop processes and metrics within the next six months for measuring the operational effectiveness and efficiency of the JIE. Further, Congress is having the CIO identify a baseline architecture for the JIE and any information technology programs or other investments that support that architecture.

These requirements may stem, in part, from a desire to help formalize and oversee JIE as an investment program, but the resulting baseline architecture will help pave the way to further implement greater IoT capabilities. The data from sensor-based devices will only continue to grow, but to maximize its utility the DoD will need a successful JIE to connect and carry the information.

Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about 
GovWin FIA. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.


Emerging Federal Technology Markets – Areas to Watch

Can technological innovation drive federal IT investments, even in the midst of budget pressures? Absolutely. This is what we explore in our latest report on Emerging Federal Technology Markets.

Under long-term pressure to “do more with less,” federal agencies are leveraging current trends in federal IT – cloud, wireless networks, IPv6, and virtualization – to gradually adopt new technologies that enable cost savings and the more efficient use of IT resources. Some of my colleagues and I took a look at how these and other technologies are shaping federal IT investments today and in the future.

Federal Investments in Foundation Technologies will Drive Emerging Markets

Technological change and proliferation span the gamut when it comes to impacting federal agencies. Sensor technologies are being introduced to track facility energy consumption and enhance physical security, while software-defined infrastructure is being explored to eliminate bottlenecks that result from stovepiped systems and the growing volume of data. Machine learning technology is being tested to create “smart” networks that rely less on person-based administration. Tying it all together are predictive analytics, which agencies are using for a growing number of purposes, from forecasting network performance and enhancing cyber security to ferreting out waste, fraud, and abuse. The result is that today’s investments set the stage for tomorrow’s capabilities. (See graphic below.)

Key market factors shaping the federal IT landscape

Some of the major drivers and key findings from our research include:

  • The drive to leverage sensor technologies and the data analytics that these enable is a driving force behind agency network modernization efforts like the DoD’s Joint Information Environment. The pace of sensor-based innovation is tied to the success of these efforts.
  • Software-Defined Infrastructure (SDI) is more pervasive than generally believed, particularly at agencies with highly-evolved Infrastructure-as-a-Service offerings.
  • Federal interest in SDI is not hype; it is a genuine trend with a growing number of current and planned use examples across federal agencies.
  • The use of predictive analytics programs has expanded significantly across the federal government since FY 2010, making it a maturing, though niche, technology that is expected to have continued strong growth.
  • The inclusion of predictive analytics as an offering on GSA’s Alliant 2 and, potentially, NS2020 government-wide contracts should help it become regarded less as an exotic technology and more as a standardized commercial-off-the-shelf solution.

The modernization of agency IT environments is opening the doors to future investment in emerging technologies.  The convergence of agencies’ work on expanding wireless networks, deploying standardized, commodity hardware, and engineering Internet Protocol-based transport networks is enabling the introduction of new sensor technologies and software-based capabilities. The impact of emerging technology adoption will be to introduce greater efficiency and security to agency IT environments. 

To get our full perspective on Emerging Federal Technology Markets read the full report. 

Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about 
GovWin FIA. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.

Observations from TTC’s Internet of Things for Defense Symposium

The Department of Defense and U.S. federal law enforcement community are increasingly interested in what has come to be called the “Internet of Things.”  Labeled the “IoT” for short, the Internet of things consists of a growing network of small, low power, low bandwidth, low cost sensors and devices that are connected to networks and which send and receive data.  Think of the sensors that automatically turn on room lights or flush toilets and you have an idea of some of the uses for IoT technology.  Additional uses for IoT technology, however, are about as varied as one can imagine.  For example, the General Services Administration recently awarded a contract to IBM to outfit its facilities with sensor technology that will allow more efficient monitoring of energy use.  Similarly, tiny sensors can be used to monitor jet engine performance, or just about any other structure in the world.

As many of the speakers at the Technology Training Corporation’s IoT symposium discussed, the DoD is eyeing sensor technology to determine how it might best be used.  There are even several use cases already in progress.  Rear Admiral Scott Jerabek, Director of Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems, at U.S. Southern Command kicked off the symposium by listing a few of these uses in his area of responsibility.  Noting that USSOUTHCOM employs IoT technology in its GeoShare program for humanitarian assistance, Jerabek also explained that the Navy is investigating a “nano-satellite network,” in addition to developing a Deep Sea Web of low observable, wide area capabilities to track dark targets at sea.

Subsequent speakers, like Air Force CTO Frank Konieczny, detailed multiple other uses for IoT technology that the defense establishment is considering. These include:

  • Base Facilities Maintenance – trash pickup, light replacement, food replenishment
  • Vehicle management – maintenance prediction, location tracking
  • Secured, smart workplace – presence for workers integrated with facilities management
  • Logistics and transportation – inventory/tracking, automated assembly/packing, geo-location in supply chain
  • Robotics – autonomous drones and vehicles, sensor based maneuvering

Needless to say, the expansion of networks to everyday items carries with it tremendous risks as well as benefits.  Multiple speakers mentioned the need to build security protocols into IoT devices so that they could be resistant to hacking.  Enhanced network security will be necessary as well given the vast expansion of data that networks will be handling.  Advanced analytics for continuous monitoring will be required, but not only that, analytics will need to be deployed to make sense of all the data and make decisions based on it.  In short, IoT will render the already big data world in which we live even bigger.

Herein lay other challenges.  Chief Warrant Officer 5, Ricardo Pina, Chief Technology Officer and Senior Technical Advisor to the Army CIO/G-6, pointed out that an organization like the Army currently does not have the network infrastructure required to handle the flow of data that an Army IoT would create.  This is one of the primary factors driving the Army’s modernization of its networks using multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) technology.  A standardized protocol will be required to enable seamless integration and use of IoT and the DoD is betting that this standard will be Internet Protocol.  Effectively, the new IP-based Joint Information Environment will enable the DoD to vastly expand its use of IoT technologies.  This expansion will in turn drive investment in the analytics and any attendant services required for IoT implementation.  Vendors therefore take note.  The business opportunity in the area of IoT is growing, particularly among informed defense customers.

For more information on upcoming symposia, visit the Technology Training Corporation. I’ll see you at the one on Software-Defined Networking scheduled for December 9-10, 2014.


The Challenge of the Internet of Things

You may have noticed recently that the media has grown weary of touting cloud computing and big data as the next big things.  Those are yesterday’s stories in the short attention span of reporters and technology prognosticators.  Today’s subject caught in the hype cycle is the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).  The IoT hype envisions a world in which everything that can be attached to a network is.  Choose any “thing,” from a household appliance to your heartbeat, and if a sensor can be installed it will be connected to the internet for more efficient monitoring and use.  Smart lights will turn on when you come home, a health care provider will contact you when the devices monitoring your vital signs set off an alert, etc.  The world will be one of ubiquitous contact, communication, and computing.

Despite how the future is envisioned, the world of federal information technology is likely to remain in the land of yesterday’s technology for far longer than any other sector of the U.S. economy.  One need look only at agency struggles with cloud to conclude that the government Internet of Things will evolve slowly and painfully.  What is more, even with the IoT advancing at a glacial pace it will likely overwhelm the ability of agency IT shops to handle the influx of data.  Out of necessity the keys to enabling the IoT in federal IT will be automation and semantic networks.  The number of devices and sensors and data will simply be too great for human beings to track and manage.  Instead software will be needed to manage the data generated by IoT devices.  Sitting at the heart of the IoT is a big data challenge and agencies haven’t responded well to that challenge yet have they?

Consider the following.  September brought revelations from the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency about irregularities in the management of cloud contracts at multiple federal agencies.  Among the various inspector general findings was a lack of understanding at the agencies when a cloud-based service had even been used.  We’re not talking about a large number of contracts and services here either.  The number is small.  Even so, The IGs found that poor management of these contracts and, by extension, the data that agencies have shared with cloud vendors, raised risk considerably.  At issue here is a small data challenge.  Take that challenge and multiply its difficulty many times to approach the complexity of the Internet of Things and this is the extent of the test agencies are facing.

Concerning the Internet of Things itself, agencies are to a certain extent already struggling with it.  The proliferation of mobile devices has dramatically increased the size of agency networks and the surface vulnerable to cyber-attacks.  Similarly, the increased number of end-point devices is placing bandwidth demands on networks that require technology upgrades to handle.  This evolution is one of the reasons, for example, that the Department of Defense is working on the concept of the Internet Protocol-based Joint Information Environment.  Imagine the burden that adding millions of sensors will place on agency networks. Imagine the vulnerabilities!

The coming Internet of Things is today the Internet of “some” Things.  Solving the challenges of today around bandwidth, security, data management, governance, storage, and analytics will establish the framework for solving the challenges of tomorrow as the IoT evolves organically into the tsunami of data and devices that it is forecast to be.  Within this context agencies will need vendors more than ever to help them manage.  Those who can offer smart, scalable solutions that promise management benefits and integrated analytics with dashboards will probably find their products in demand.  The outsourcing of agency data to cloud providers with self-healing networks should also prove lucrative in the years to come as the cost of implementing these kinds of networks in-house could be prohibitive to a federal government with skyrocketing debt service payments and social safety net obligations.