Tips for Building a Battle-Hardened Network
The U.S. Army is leading the charge on the military’s multidomain battle concept—but will federal IT networks enable this initiative or inhibit it?
The network is critical to the Army’s vision of combining the defense domains of land, air, sea, space and cyberspace to protect and defend against adversaries on all fronts. As Gen. Stephen Townsend, USA, remarked to AFCEA conference attendees earlier this year, the Army is readying for a future reliant on telemedicine, 3-D printing, and other technologies that will prove integral to multidomain operations. “The network needs to enable all that,” said Townsend.
But the Army’s network, as currently constituted, isn’t quite ready to effectively support this ambitious effort. In response, Maj. General Peter Gallagher, USA, director of the Army’s Network Cross Functional Team, has called for a flat network that converges these disparate systems and is more dynamic, automated, and self-healing.
The Army has employed a three-part strategy to solve these challenges and modernize its network, but modernization can open up potential security gaps. As the Army moves forward with readying its network for multidomain battles, IT professionals will want to take several steps to ensure network operations remain rock solid and secure.
Identify and Sunset Outdated Technologies
The Army may want to consider identifying and sunsetting outdated legacy technologies that can introduce connectivity, compatibility, and security issues. Legacy technologies may not be easily integrated into the new network environment, which could pose a problem as the service consolidates its various network resources. They could slow down network operations, preventing troops from being able to access vital information in times of need. They could also introduce security vulnerabilities that may not be patchable.
Update and Test Security Procedures
It’s imperative that Army IT professionals maintain strong and consistent security analysis to ensure the efficacy of new network technologies. This is especially true during the convergence and integration phase, when security holes may be more likely to arise.
Consider utilizing real-world operational testing, event simulation, and red and blue team security operations. Networks are evolutionary, not revolutionary, and these processes should be implemented every time a new element is added to the network.
Monitor the Network, Inside and Out
IT professionals will need to strengthen their existing network monitoring capabilities to identify and remediate issues, from bottlenecks to breaches, quickly and efficiently. They will need to go beyond traditional network monitoring to adopt agile and scalable monitoring capabilities that can be applied across different domains to support different missions.
Look no further than the Army’s Command Post Computing Environment for an initiative requiring more robust monitoring than typical on-premises monitoring capabilities. Similarly, a network that enables multidomain operations will need to be just as reliable and secure as traditional networks, even though the demands placed on the network will most likely be far more intense than anything the Army is accustomed to handling.
For the multidomain concept to succeed, the Army needs a network that can enable the initiative. Building such a network starts with modernization and continues with deploying the necessary processes and technologies to ensure secure and reliable operations. Those are the core tenets of a network built to handle whatever comes its way, from land, air, sea, space, or cyberspace.
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