Lord: 'Wire power is firepower'

Also: 'We have to stop shooting behind the rabbit.'

TAMPA, Fla. — As the number of personnel in the U.S. armed forces dwindles and consolidates over time, the tool that will make up for that shortfall will be the network, which the Pentagon views as a force multiplier due to data sharing capabilities and enhanced situational awareness.

As Lt. Gen William Lord, Air Force chief information officer, puts it, “Wire power is firepower.” Lord, who also serves as Air Force chief of warfighting integration, spoke Aug. 5 at LandWarNet 2010.

An example of how the network can act as a force multiplier is the Air Force’s Gorgon Stare program, where a single Predator or Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle can record surveillance data on 12 individual cameras instead of just one. The data from all those cameras can be shared simultaneously with soldiers and marines on the ground.

The key to ensuring that the network can provide that functionality and is always available is security. Unfortunately, according to Lord, the military addresses the problem in a out-of-date way that is no longer effective.

“Traditionally, those of us in the signal business have watched from a barrier-reef perspective: Stop bad things from getting on the network,” he said. “Guess what … too late. That ship has sailed. Bad things are already on the network. So what are we going to do?”

The attack vector has changed from only protecting the network to also protecting the work of the network. That refers to the data at rest and the applications.

“We’re beginning to change the way we have to get after the software assurance piece of our joint business,” said Lord. “We have the ability to hoover up data, but three weeks from now we study it and say, ‘Oops, the bad guys are in.’ We have to stop shooting behind the rabbit.”

To do that, Lord believes that the nation’s cyber warriors have to learn to predict intrusions, “by following the sun,” as he put it. Much of that type of expertise lies in the commercial world, and the military should take advantage of it “so we can predict and act before bad things happen,” he said.

About the Author

Barry Rosenberg is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryDefense.

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