To adapt to a warfighting landscape increasingly driven by digital technology, the U.S. military must pursue the implementation of zero trust with interoperability and collaboration in mind, according to public and private sector information technology leaders.
Joseph Staier, chief engineer for the Air Force’s enterprise information technology and cyber infrastructure division, highlighted the core purpose of zero trust: delivering data to the warfighter.
“We must be able to share that information. There is no conflict we can see coming up that is going to be in a single domain,” he said in a panel discussion during GovCon Wire’s 3rd Annual AF IT Modernization and Transformation Forum on Tuesday.
“As we look toward joint or coalition warfighting, we have to be interoperable,” added Justin Stolpman, zero trust chief architect at the Air Force.
“Our solution must be able to communicate with a five-eyes partner. We do not fight alone, and to be successful, we have to keep that in mind,” he said.
Ensuring the necessary level of interoperability starts with “organizing correctly” within the Department of Defense, according to Jim Huso, an enterprise architect at CACI.
“We need to step in and create open standards. I am not going to tell you what data to use, but what data standards you will build to. We need to streamline that so that we actually develop things with interoperability in mind,” he elaborated.
This idea of open standards applies not only to internal DOD departments, but to its work with industry partners.
“The acquisition process is a slow process in general, and we need to figure out how to do it faster – and better,” Staier said.
He added that current options to accelerate acquisition activities can be difficult and require the selection of a winner rather than welcoming “vendors that interoperate with other vendors,” a concept that would be easier to embrace in an environment with open standards.
Col. Jennifer Krolikowski-Stamer, director of the Chief Information Office for Space Systems Command at Los Angeles Air Force Base, shared that the service branch has begun “embedding” a member of their team “as part of the source selection and as part of the requirements development that is going out with the RFP itself” to promote a more efficient and collaborative acquisition process.
This strategy, said Krolikowski-Stamer, gives Space Force partners insight into the necessary properties of the system they are building early on rather than beginning with limited information and trying to “bolt it on at the end.”
“With respect to integrations, I think it is a matter of teaming with some of the folks that are actually doing that work to understand what integrations are coming and what can you bring to the table to help them with deploying software out to folks who need it,” stressed Barry Duplantis, vice president and general manager of government solutions at Mattermost.
Measuring the success of these efforts, according to Stolpman, is not just based around timelines, but should also center user experience and the impact of warfighter effectiveness.
“We have to get out of the moat and castle mentality and get into protecting the data – and that is what zero trust is really all about. It is about getting data to the warfighter and making sure that that data is there securely,” he said.
For another look into Air Force digital transformation strategies and priorities, the Potomac Officers Club will hold its 2023 Annual Air Force Summit on July 18. The event will connect a number of Air Force and industry leaders to consider the role of emerging technology in the service branch’s mission. To learn more and register to attend, please visit the Potomac Officers Club events page.