Cyber Defense

DOD's acquisition reform effort focuses on cybersecurity

DOD undersecretary Frank Kendall

Kendall says cybersecurity is a “pervasive problem” for DOD.

With the latest version of its acquisition reform effort, the Defense Department is putting a sharper focus on cybersecurity while trying to maintain the unites States’ technological edge in the world.

The Defense Department released its Better Buying Power 3.0 in late 2014 with the idea of continuing its incremental improvements to acquisition and getting the most bang for the buck. Or as Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work recently described it, “the original goal of Better Buying Power, which was to do more without more, remains our overriding focus.”

At a keynote address at the Brookings Institute in Washington on Monday, Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall talked about the program’s evolution, saying that the Better Buying Power 1.0 was about best practices, 2.0 built upon these best practices and gave personnel the tools to make better judgements, and 3.0 includes a focus on technical excellence.    

With technical excellence in mind, Kendall acknowledged in his address that DOD has a problem with cybersecurity, which was a key factor in issuing a third installment of Better Buying Power. “Cybersecurity is a pervasive problem for the department,” Kendall told reporters at the Pentagon last week. “It's a pervasive problem in the sense that it affects and is a danger, if you will, a source of risk for our programs from inception all the way through retirement.”

“[W]e are under attack in the cyber world, and we've got to do a better job protecting our things” such as the industrial base that houses databases and information, logistics support information, sustainment information, design information and tactical information Kendall said.  

A few key points regarding cybersecurity outlined in a DOD memo released last week are focuses on securing the unclassified controlled technical information, which is potentially accessible through commercial interface, identifying the acquisition and technology programs that are most critical to “enabling U.S. technological superiority in order to focus our cybersecurity and protection resource” and the education of the DOD workforce on best practices in system security.

The notion of maintaining superiority is not new, but much of the cyber realm is still uncharted waters for DOD. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has previously said that the military superiority of the United States does not carry over into the cyber realm, which is not to say that DOD isn’t taking steps to address this.

Kendall said changing the cyber landscape could start with education. Lauding the importance of science, technology, math and engineering education, Kendall stressed the necessity of fostering younger generations to be able to contribute to the security of the nation. “If we’re looking longer term, but for the sake of the country, for our economy, for our quality of life, as well as for our national security, it is very important that this country develop and nurture people who are going to go into these fields and contribute to our society,” he said. “The department has a limited role but it is a role that matters.  You need to capture people young or you’re not going to capture them….It’s best if you start out and get those courses that you need to put you on the track to be a technical field early on.”  

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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