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DISA Leaders Share Thoughts on Cyber and Automation

shutterstock_175220540 During DISA’s annual Forecast to Industry conference, agency leaders sat down with members of the press corps and talked informally, on the record, about the technologies and events shaping the Defense Department’s IT strategies moving forward.

Martin Gross, DISA’s Program Executive Officer for Command and Control Capabilities (C2C) summarized the budget and cost constraints the agency is working within. DISA’s budget has been cut 10% each year for the last several years, he said, while at the same time the Office of the Secretary of Defense has driven down the agency’s rate structure between seven and 10% per year.

With numbers like that, it does not take long to understand why DISA is moving so aggressively toward adopting COTS technology wherever possible, automating as many functions as it can, and reorganizing in order to centralize requirements.

“It’s something we discuss daily,” said Jason Martin, DISA Computing Services Directorate. “We take every opportunity to work into a virtual environment … We are aggressively trying to standardize everything we can,” the reason the agency is moving into a standards-based MilCloud 2.0.

During his conference presentation, Jack Wilmer, the DISA Infrastructure Development Executive, told industry executives about contract opportunities involving Big Data and analytics. In the press briefing, he expanded on the topic.

“From an analytics perspective, we’re focused on the unknown unknowns. We want to look for patterns, types of activities,” that up to now have not been discernable, such as one user somehow being on the network in multiple locations at the same time, Wilmer said.

Automating cyber defenses is another area of responsibility for Wilmer. He said that while the agency is looking to automate everything it can, “there’s a big difference between what can be automated versus what should be automated.”

The challenge of cyber security also has to be balanced against DISA’s budget situation. “We can’t keep bolting on the latest and greatest,” Wilmer said.

Alfred Rivera, director of DISA’s new Development and Business Center, created in the agency reorganization, said that he’s looking at the next generation of virtualization in the data center environment, and how to turn it around quickly. Next up will be the rationalizing of apps. “[Defense CIO Terry] Halvorsen has mentioned getting out of legacy environments,” he said. Moving to standardized platforms will help the DoD with its mobile initiatives.

There is a lot of interest in DISA’s cloud initiatives, particularly what will comprise MilCloud 2.0, the successor to MilCloud 1.0, the agency’s current private cloud. Wilmer said there are a number of pilot programs under way throughout DoD to look at how to access data within commercial clouds, but he declined to identify any of them.

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