Military Embedded Systems

DoD's top infosys officer says battlespace awareness is most important cyber issue


May 23, 2024

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Photo courtesy U.S. DoD/Matthew Olay, DoD

WASHINGTON. Protecting the joint force by being vigilant within the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) cyber battlespace is the top issue facing the DoD and the wider defense community, stated Air Force Lt. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, who serves as both the director of Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and commander of the joint headquarters for DoD's Information Network (DODIN).

Speaking at a meeting of high-level military and civilian leaders from the defense and government technology communities, Skinner noted the dangers posed by U.S. adversaries and detailed what DISA is doing to meet such challenges. "I don't think you can overstate the threat that we live in, in the cyber domain today. All you have to do is go look at open-source reporting," Skinner told the audience. 

Skinner explained DISA's recently released five-year strategy, which it calls "DISA Next," which has its stated purpose "to drive this combat support agency's priorities and initiatives to deliver capacity and capabilities to our warfighters," according to Skinner's written forward. 

At its base, Skinner explained, the strategy states that as a combat-support agency, DISA always needs to be focused on "the bad day," meaning the start of armed conflict. "We can't lose sight of what's going on day-to-day; we can't lose sight of competition; we can't lose sight of crisis," Skinner stated. "But we have to be there for our combatant commands, and our departments, and our nation on 'the bad day.'" 

To be best prepared for "the bad day," Skinner explained, DISA's strategy must focus on four strategic imperatives: operating and securing the DISA portion of DODIN; supporting strategic command, control and communications, or C3; optimizing/modernizing the network; and operationalizing -- in other words, proactively collecting, storing, correlating, and interpreting -- incoming data. 

As for that fourth imperative -- to operationalize incoming data -- Skinner said he likes to think of it in terms of having "analytic superiority," and believes that artificial intelligence (AI) will play a large part in that superiority. He cautioned that while AI is not a cure-all for everything, it is a "huge game-changer if you understand the problem you're trying to solve; and you understand how you can leverage that; and [you] understand the risks associated … and you're actually spending the time to train the models going forward." 

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