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  • Cyber Sins and Digital Damnation
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 2:45 PM on Oct 21, 2010

    Former senior Pentagon officials are stunned to hear that Defense Secretary Gates’ office is separating command, control and computers oversight from its intelligence responsibilities in a restructuring of responsibilities.

    The plan would kill the of Asst. Sec. of Defense for networks and information integration (ASD-NII) and disperse functions of the Joint Staff’s J-6 office. And it's a flawed concept, says a former senior Pentagon civilian.

    The change will open the door to inter-service misunderstanding, fragmentation of software/ cyberoperations and electronic warfare and ensure a lack of influence over command, control and communications (C3) issues at the highest level joint-service debates, says Don Latham, a former asst. sec. of defense for C3I who has since then served as a participant in Defense Science Board studies.

    “It is almost unbelievable,” said a second former official. “I am not sure what is behind this but [the] SecDef and DOD will rue the day that they let all of this out of their grasp.” A third trashed the lack of process, saying, “This whole thing -- abolishing NIT, BTA, and J-6 without prior detailed discussion about how the missions get covered – is very discouraging.”

    The administration of C3 and intelligence were combined in the 1980s, just in time for the Persian Gulf War in 1990.

    “Now [in 2010] we’re separating the pieces and distributing them to organizations that don’t have a seat at the [Defense Secretary Office’s] resources table and no voice in the operations mafia about how to maximize the C3I capability in combat,” Latham says. “If it is so important to get rid of the ASD-NII, why not create an under-secretary of defense position for C4ISR [C3 and computers and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] position that puts C3 and I back together as it should be?”

    A recent series of memoranda from Gates is organizing the transfer of the Pentagon’s Chief Information Officer, C2 in Joint Forces Command and NII to the Defense Information Systems Agency. In addition, NII information assurance functions go to Cyber Command. A final plan is to be in place by Dec. 15.

    The reorganization was planned by deputy defense secretary William Lynn, who heads the Pentagon’s cybersecurity efforts. Gates goal is to cut cost and Lynn’s task is to redistribute assets. Critics fear that cross-service communications and operational input to cyberplanning will be degraded.

    Other former Defense Dept. officials expressed concern about Lynn’s lack of technical background and the loosening of OSD control.

    Lynn’s plans stress protection rather than communications. He contends that current U.S. military advantages result from information technology including precision strike, transportation and logistics.

    “If you compromise that technology, if you can get inside it, you can blunt all of those advantages,” Lynn said recently. “Secretary Gates has asked me to take the lead in terms of pulling the threats together and trying to develop a coherent strategy to defend our military networks.”

    Critics say that compartmentalization of effort within the U.S. military is an equal threat.

    Latham provides a series of examples of how not having technology advocates and centralized OSD leadership in such discussions can hinder the introduction of new technology and interoperability.

    “In the 1980s, [the joint tactical information distribution systems] JTIDS could have been put into large-scale production for F-15s and F-16s,” he says. “It was rejected by then Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and senior Air Force officials because they wrongly judged that JTIDS -- the first time-division multiple-access communications system -- would be too expensive. Yet at the same time similar equipment was being developed for installation in the F-22. The result was a delay of several years in getting the JTIDS capability into operational tactical aircraft as well as Army and Navy platforms.”

    Around the same time there was a similar debate about whether to approve or kill GPS. This time there was a C3 advocate who ensured the navigation capability was available for many by the time the Persian Gulf war started in 1990.

    Shortly after, the Army was deciding whether to put the single-channel ground and airborne radio system (Sincgars) in its vehicles. The argument was won by a pair of C3 specialists who assured that the Army was ready for Sincgars and eventually the software radio technology which is now a military standard for all the services.

    If the current plan to cut spending by disestablishing the ASD(I) position is carried out, “No one is left with enough stature as part of the OSD structure to argue and defend C3,” Latham says. “The C3 budget is in the $10 of billions. How do you disperse this important capability with no OSD or J6 oversight? Instead we should create an OSD C3ISR office [like the Air Force did over the last three years].”

    One suggestion is to merge ASD(NII) with the existing USD(I) office to create a joint USD(C4ISR)office in OSD.

    Moreover, the move also removes the need for technical and operational integration of C3 and Cyberwarfare.

    “Who [at the joint level] is going to speak for that void of knowledgeable people that could advocate and shepherd the technology for software and hardware systems through the bureaucracy,” he asked.

    Meanwhile, the services are building their own version of NII. A pioneer was Lt. Gen. (ret.) Dave Deptula who expanded the role of U.S. Air Force intelligence chief to include ISR. The Navy did something similar by combining its N2 (intelligence) and N6 (networks and communications) offices.

    Now OSD has seemingly reversed the process.

    “The services will now get their own way in developing these capabilities because they won’t have to go through OSD to get [new] C3 approved which includes for offensive and defensive electronic warfare and all the networks,” Latham says.

    The development of communications satellites is an example of how inter-service problems have cropped up because of the absence of strong Defense Secretary Office oversight to resolve cross-service issues.

    “When we started MilStar [satellite communications system], there were big fights between the Air Force and Navy over what characteristics the satellite would have,” Latham says. For example, “The Air Force launched a major effort to task each service to pay a share of the cost of satellite system use. We could never settle that issue. The Navy developed their own unique UHF system.”

    There is the possibility of breakthrough technologies that could produce a compromise for Lynn and his critics.

    “It’s clear there is enormous potential in the concept of cloud computing,” Lynn says. “Because you are able to put your defense around the cloud in a way that you can’t put it around individual computers, you are less dependent on individual users taking the right steps to protect their hard work.”

    The Pentagon is looking at a number of technologies in fact.

    “Cloud [computing] provides the opportunity to build service-oriented applications that allow flexibility in storing and providing mission assurance, says Robert Butler, deputy assistance secretary of defense for cyberpolicy. “Within the cloud, security is [derived] from the implementation of the cloud and how it works. The technology scheme is to study the integration of architectures and capabilities over time. There is a step toward partitioning within the cloud, but it also is looking at ideas that allow us to assure missions from a security standpoint while encouraging the availability of applications.”

    Another option among a series of operating concepts under consideration is a separate defense/government network – called “dot-secure” that is walled off from the rest of the internet.

    “If we are faced with a significant, large-scale threat, what else can be done?” Butler says. “Creation of a dot-secure arena may mean ensuring that operations continue” within the Defense Dept. even while it is under attack.

    Critics contend that the protected network would become the number one target and that no system is completely secure. Even government officials say a “Maginot Line” mentality toward cyberwar is doomed.

    Tags: ar99, Gates, C4I

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