The Stack Archive

U.S. Army risks falling behind adversaries in race to innovate

Wed 12 Oct 2016

As the U.S. military battles with heavy financial cuts and growing national cybersecurity threats, the U.S. Army’s director of Cyber Patricia Frost has likened the balancing act of updating the organisation’s IT with the ‘clockspeed dilemma’ – a term applied to describe the struggle to keep pace with constant technological developments.

Speaking at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition on October 5th, Frost explained that the Army and other groups within the Department of Defense are hampered by bureaucracy-heavy commissioning systems which leave no room to fast-track new technologies for immediate use.

Frost suggested that this process is exposing the organisation to risk, with adversaries ‘leaping ahead at a speed never seen in modern history.’

Alongside Frost, Raj Shah, who is head of the Army’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) team, also noted his frustration with the constraints. Having spent time as an Air Force cyber operator, he said that on numerous occasions new technologies had been rejected for bureaucratic reasons.

Shah cited a recent case in which cyber soldiers in the field were having difficulties with a ‘slow and jerky’ intelligence and surveillance stream. When asked about the problem, the soldiers revealed that they were running on the outdated operating system Windows XP. They had been told not to bother upgrading to a later version as the security approval process would take too long.

A further worrying scenario related to source code verification, which is currently held up in accreditation processes. It was argued that if the enemy was using iPhones for command and control purposes, soldiers would be able to monitor the traffic. However, if the enemy was to switch to Android devices, the soldiers would have no way to monitor the communication, as they do not have the relevant accreditation.

Commander Edward Cardon of the U.S. Army Cyber Command concluded the session arguing that ‘Cyber is no longer an intelligence problem or an electronic warfare problem. It’s a commander’s problem.’

The clockspeed dilemma theory has also been discussed recently in the automotive industry where manufacturers are struggling to keep up with new innovation such as self-driving technology.

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