Air Force Aiming to Transform IT Operations with Cybersecurity and Big Data Solutions

3D Wire PlaneStephanie Meloni_65x85by Stephanie Meloni, Senior Analyst

Air Force senior leadership came together at AFCEA NOVA’s recent Air Force IT Day to share their priorities for the near future. Two overarching themes became clear: IT related to data integration and analytics as well as cybersecurity are main focus areas for the Air Force in FY16. Additionally, the Air Force’s Task Force, Cyber Secure — established earlier this year to help the Air Force get ahead of cyber threats — has been a success story as the Air Force establishes its cyber terrain.

The most pressing project in the works across the entire Air Force will be taking cybersecurity beyond just networks and expanding protection to their weapon’s systems. It’s not possible for the Air Force to harden all these systems, so they recognize they will need to operate in contested environments. Enhancing cybersecurity for weapons systems will entail threat analysis from cradle to grave, including detecting vulnerabilities in software code. They also want to expand cyber protection for base infrastructure. The Air Force recognizes that to present date they’ve had disproportionate spending for network protection and as a result will be reallocating funding to achieve a better balance. IT vendors that offer threat and vulnerability assessment, risk analysis, and intrusion detection products will want to reach out to Air Force customers to help them conduct mission threat analysis to prioritize which cyber issues to tackle first when it comes to extending protections.

Air Force Cyber Mission Forces will be a mix of cyber and intelligence personnel (about a 60/40 split), which speaks to the Air Force’s goal of integrating the two domains. This presents IT vendors with a great technology insertion point for data management, integration, and analysis. Their intelligence systems still have too many stovepipes, presenting a wide array of challenges with information sharing. One new initiative coming out of the Air Combat Command will be Data to Decision, which will look at how to integrate data across multiple domains (air, space, etc.) and bring the knowledge into a place where users can access the data for better decision making. Basically, the Air Force wants to merge traditional analysis they’ve been doing with newer Big Data analytics to transform their operations.

Finally, one remaining takeaway is that the Air Force needs collaboration in order to strike the right balance of customized or off-the-shelf solutions. They’re going to need a mix of COTS, services, and more intensive, academic and technical research in order to transform IT operations with cybersecurity and data solutions. The Air Force overall is an organization that wants to outsource as much as possible, so when meeting with Air Force customers, it often is best to collaborate with services contractors and other partners in order to provide the right solutions — partnerships are key to achieving success.

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One Response to Air Force Aiming to Transform IT Operations with Cybersecurity and Big Data Solutions

  1. Angel Healy says:

    “The most pressing project in the works across the entire Air Force will be taking cybersecurity beyond just networks and expanding protection to their weapon’s systems.” They would definitely have a lot of manufacturers to choose from. There are a lot of flexible service providers that the Air Force could freely suggest what they specifically want for the security of their weapons system. And yes, it’s about time to up the game in the cybersecurity aspect of every agency.

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