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US Navy’s Information Superiority Vision is to modernize, innovate, defend platforms and developing a culture of information readiness

The Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer Aaron Weis has released the DON Information Superiority Vision in Feb 2020 which conveyed the DON’s vision for information superiority through our information, modernized network design, and our workforce; and defines our way forward.


As stated by General David H. Berger, the 38th Commandant of the Marine Corpsii , the character of warfare has changed. Peer competitors operate in the grey zone. Today’s battlefront has extended beyond the physical frontlines. Future conflicts will take place at sea, onshore and across cyberspace. Adversaries gain an advantage in the Information Environment by leveraging a proliferation of inexpensive information technologies while developing high-tech capabilities for the kinetic fight.


The plan comes after troubling reports in recent years about the vulnerability of Navy networks to hacking and intrusion by foreign adversaries such as Russia and China. In March 2019, an internal audit presented to Navy leaders and leaked to the Wall Street Journal revealed that the Navy and its industry partners face a “cyber siege” by hackers who have in past years stolen vital national security secrets after exploiting critical weaknesses.


Success in traditional warfighting domains now requires mastering the Information Environment, which includes the electrometric spectrum, space, cyber domain, and the data that crosses them. Rapid data-enhanced decision-making, which increases lethality, defines warfare in the Information Age. Success depends on rapidly understanding the environment and enemy to make decisions faster than the adversary. The DON must securely deliver the right information to the right Sailor or Marine at the right time to defeat high-paced and evolving threats.


Future global naval conflicts will take place afloat, ashore, and in the Information Environment. Our network and platforms must allow us to evolve, grow, and adapt to out-cycle our adversaries – maneuver warfare in and through technology.  As we adopt a model that allows us to modernize, innovate, and defend our platform, we unlock this future. The network itself becomes a warfighting platform.


Information management, digital modernization, and the technology tools that enable them must be elevated as core strategic priorities across the Department of the Navy (DON). Cyber security, data strategy and analytics, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing have all combined to create massive opportunities and vulnerabilities across our entire enterprise. A critical element of mission readiness is our ability to access agile, reliable, and secure global communications and information, from the network enterprise to the tactical edge.




Current Challenges

The Department of the Navy (DON) lacks a mastery of its Information Environment. Our peer competitors desire to disrupt our ability to conduct battle by denying and degrading our means of sensing, understanding, and acting with coherency.


The DON’s current networks, associated processes, and culture compound the problem. Our networks limit access to data and fail to support efficient decision-making. Our antiquated systems are inadequate for the security environment described in the National Defense Strategy. The report’s findings aren’t surprising. The Navy’s IT systems were designed in the 1990s, and according to Navy CIO Aaron Weis, the service is “15 years behind where private industry is.” Even ubiquitous capabilities like cloud collaboration, file sharing, voice and video services aren’t available to personnel, who instead work around systems to get their jobs done.


Finding funds to upgrade old, but still operational, IT applications is difficult. Yet the more antiquated naval IT systems are, the more likely they are to hit a breaking point, compromising the mission and the warfighter.


Another hurdle to modernization is that the network perimeter has shifted dramatically. The adoption of cloud computing and a move towards remote work have eliminated the notion of the network as fully enclosed within a building, installation or warship. This increases the attack surface exponentially. “As technology changes, our network no longer forms a linear battlespace simply defended by a Maginot line of firewalls,” the report warned. Unfortunately, in the spirit of serving the mission and keeping IT operations running secure and smoothly, this “keeping the lights on” mentality has stymied innovation.


Compounding these factors, the Navy also faces challenges in recruiting, developing and retaining an effective information workforce, with many talented IT staff moving to roles offering more growth opportunities and compensation.



Information Superiority Vision

Addressing these challenges and opportunities is not an easy task. The Navy needs to coordinate and strengthen its past capabilities to follow the path to information superiority and organize it around its three main assumptions: modernization, innovation, and defense.


But naval leaders don’t have to boil the sea. Retrofitting the entire IT infrastructure is costly and impractical. Instead, departments need to identify and prioritize critical areas, unlock resources within a good IT center, and focus on evaluating new technologies and developing software solutions that keep the mission moving forward.


For example, many of the workloads and activities that burden IT administrators can be streamlined and simplified through automation. On the network side, Software Defined Networking (SDN) can automate many tasks related to provisioning, monitoring, and management. This ensures a seamless flow of information, allowing for agile scaling and enhanced security. Leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to generate intelligence, automatically analyze and contextualize large amounts of data, freeing seafarers and marines from repeated manual investigations and analyzes, making them more definitive. Allows you to achieve results faster.


To quickly deploy new features while reducing your reliance on costly physical hardware, you need to identify cloud computing and containerization strategies. These technologies also allow flexible scaling of systems and applications to meet mission needs and the long-awaited resilience and operational agility of critical IT infrastructure within the structure of aging legacy technologies. Brings.


We must leverage the existing Naval Tactical Grid (NTG) efforts to create a Naval mesh network extending the tactical edge organically without forward infrastructure.  The mesh scales from the large weapons platform of a Guided Missile Destroyer afloat to the individual Marines operating forward, connected by orbiting aerial platforms, existing military satellites, future low earth orbit (LEO) platforms, landlines, or other existing and emerging network nodes. These self-forming networks must operate with all the qualities of the DON
network and organically form and de-form as needed, with associated access to any information (when not DDIL) through the seamless DON network.


As we move to the cloud, we will require more bandwidth to move increasingly large amounts of information between the tactical edge and enterprise. We must maximize this bandwidth-rich environment to prepare for times of limited connectivity – broken or degraded either by choice or through the adversary’s actions.



New Information Management Strategy

Modernize – We will modernize the DON infrastructure from its current state of fragmented, non-performant, outdated, and indefensible architectures to a unified, logical modem infrastructure capable of delivering information advantage. We will design a performant, defendable cloud enabled. network leveraging robust identity management.


To generate information power, artificial intelligence and machine learning can be leveraged to automatically analyze and contextualize massive amounts of data, freeing sailors and marines from the repetitive, manual investigation and analysis and helping them achieve more decisive outcomes quicker.


To deploy new capabilities at speed while reducing dependency on costly physical hardware, cloud computing and containerization strategies must be identified. These technologies also enable the flexible scaling of systems and applications to meet the needs of the mission and bring much-needed resiliency and operational agility to critical IT infrastructures within the constructs of aging legacy technology.

Innovate – We will use technologies like 5th Generation wireless and Artificial Intelligence to maximum effectiveness, and field new operational capabilities. We will create Digital Innovation Centers to accelerate software development and leverage best practices in the private sector and industry to fuel our digital transformation. For AI, the DON needs to scale AI in partnership with the Joint AI
Center (JAIC) to optimize the analysis phase of information management. Millimeter wave technology should be leveraged to extend the logical DON transport networks to the tactical edge.


The DON needs to accelerate innovation by creating an ecosystem of Digital Innovation Centers. These innovation centers will bring together teams of Sailors and Marines to develop software solutions through user-centered design in DevSecOps with known tools and libraries. Each
Innovation Center will share its solutions enterprise-wide, avoiding the redundancy of multiple teams “relearning” the same lessons.

Defend – We will employ continuous active monitoring across the enterprise to increase cyber situational awareness and institute a security culture where a personal commitment to cybersecurity is required to gain access to the network. We will transform the compliance centered
culture to one where security is constant readiness.

We will work with our defense industrial base partners to secure naval information regardless of where it resides. We will engage our Tier 1 Defense Innovation Board (DIB) companies to incentivize, support, and aid the Tier 2/3 companies to dramatically increase their security posture. Industry is part of the weapon system.


Developing a culture of information readiness

On the path to modernization, technology is only half the battle. To accelerate innovation, there must also be a cultural shift. As the Navy’s dependency on IT grows, the same preparedness and rigor personnel exhibit in the military theaters must also be applied to the IT environment. The Navy is aiming to develop a “transformative workforce” that is “continuously learning, always advancing,” the report stated.


This means training military and civilian personnel so everyone becomes a cyber sentry, ready and prepared to combat threats and vulnerabilities. Furthermore, to retain and nurture skilled personnel, those with the right skills must be identified and promoted.  The DON must develop a transformative workforce ready to modernize, innovate, and defend our information.


Continuously Learning, Always Advancing

The DON needs to accelerate innovation by creating an ecosystem of Digital Innovation Centers. These innovation centers will bring together teams of Sailors and Marines to develop software solutions through user-centered design in DevSecOps with known tools and libraries. Each
Innovation Center will share its solutions enterprise-wide, avoiding the redundancy of multiple teams “relearning” the same lessons.


Ready to fight tonight in cyberspace – Every Sailor, Marine, and civilian a cyberspace sentry

“Every Marine a Rifleman” remains a core Marine Corps tenet. In today’s security environment, we must instill the same discipline in cyberspace: “every Sailor, Marine, and civilian a cyberspace sentry.” We must remain vigilant every day from boot camp to retirement.

Actively, constantly audit ourselves to maintain our “Right to Operate”

By deploying a continuous audit capability, the DON “auto-red teams” our systems, Sailors, Marines, and civilians on their mastery of information defense. If we find vulnerabilities, we take corrective action, no different than grounding an aircraft or welding a ship to the pier. Verification and validation never end. Security becomes a state of being and readiness.

The Information Environment as a critical part of all Navy and Marine Corps career paths

Information Environment training must be embedded through all levels and competencies, from basic ratings to post-graduate degrees. We must weave the Information Environment into every Sailor, Marine, and civilians’ career paths, educational opportunities, and exposure to advanced technology. We need to fast-track and promote from below the zone for Sailors and Marines who excel in needed technical specialty areas. The DON’s information environment and related processes must encourage innovative thought and build a culture of information exploitation infused into operations.


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