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U. S. Navy’s much-needed modernization plan also increases vulnerabilities

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U. S. Navy’s much-needed modernization plan also increases vulnerabilities

Summary

This month, the Department of the Navy (DON) released a report, Information Superiority Vision, that outlines an acceleration of the military branch’s digital transformation. The report highlights the need for a comprehensive overhaul of the department’s systems and cyber posture to better defend against attacks.

Reporting on an internal strategy memo, the Wall Street Journal calls attention to issues ranging from aging technology to a highly fragmented network and weaknesses in the supply chain.

Navy Times article paints a bleak operational picture. According to the DON report, “Simple capabilities such as file sharing, cloud collaboration, chat, voice, and video are not available to DON users. Forward-deployed Sailors and Marines must manually contextualize raw data from multiple unintegrated systems.”

Report

Analysis

The DON report rightly outlines cyber as a strategic if not neglected asset. According to Acting Secretary Modly, “For too long people looked at it [cyber] as a cost center and not a strategic asset.” The report also outlines the benefits and risks of the Navy’s digital transformation:

“Cyber security, data strategy and analytics, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing have all combined to create massive opportunities and vulnerabilities across our entire enterprise.”

The Acting Secretary also highlighted cyber weaknesses in the Navy’s supply chain—an area that will receive more focus under the new plan. Cyberhedge profiled the supply chain analysis of one of the U. S. military’s largest contractors (Company Spotlight, pg. 9)

The DON has clearly been slow to adapt to the digital age, putting itself and perhaps U. S. national security at a disadvantage. But, department leadership is also balancing necessary modernization with an expanded universe of risks and severity of potential impacts to the Navy. To that end, the outlines of the plan appear to emphasize systems and processes as much as technology—in line with the military approach to management. If executed well, such an approach will serve the DON and the country better than a rush to simply upgrade outdated technology.

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