DISA has crucial role to play in budget drawdown, Lynn says

DISA-led IT strategies will prove critical as the budget ax falls on the Defense Department, DOD Deputy Secretary William Lynn says.

As the Defense Department faces an ominous budget battle and rapidly evolving wartime requirements, IT is taking on a growing, prominent role in defense transformation, DOD Deputy Secretary William Lynn said Aug. 16.

That role is increasingly being filled by the Defense Information Systems Agency, which provides an IT and communications infrastructure that is expanding in capacity and importance.

“Changes in information technologies have revolutionized how our militaries organize, train and fight. The information backbone DISA enables our most important military capabilities,” Lynn told the audience at the DISA Customer and Industry Forum in Baltimore.

"From ISR and global strike to navigation and command and control, our defense community relies on the networks you are responsible for to keep America safe," he said. "You provide the IT foundation for the most effective fighting force in the world. And you do so at a time where technology is not stagnant, but rather in a constant and rapid state of evolution.”

That focus on IT, much of which hinges on DISA-led strategies, will only continue to grow in significance as Washington’s budget clamp-down exacts deep cuts in defense spending, Lynn noted.

“For the past decade, we have lived in a world where we could meet new security challenges with increased resources. Those days are over. We are going to have to make hard choices – our challenge is to accommodate changing fiscal circumstances without undercutting our military effectiveness,” he said. “IT has a unique role in contributing to the budget drawdown. Given the potential savings generated by IT efficiencies, IT is also helping us manage our fiscal situation.”

However, DOD’s increasing dependence on IT networks and capabilities, coupled with the military’s still-young presence in the cyber realm, were among the chief factors in the recent release of the department’s Defense Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace, he said. He pointed out that defense IT and the cyber threat are intertwined.

“The reality is that our reliance on IT presents a significant vulnerability,” said Lynn. “This kind of cyber exploitation does not have the dramatic impact of a conventional military attack. But over the long term it has a deeply corrosive effect. It blunts our edge in military technology.”

According to Lynn, DISA’s unique posture and resources are critical to national defense against the cyber threat.

“DISA plays a crucial role in our effort to address the cyber threat, and a key role in each part of the strategy,” Lynn said. “Nowhere is this role more important that DISA’s support of [U.S. Cyber Command]. Together with [the Cyber Command], DISA has operational control over our defense networks. Being co-located alongside CyberCom [at Ft. Meade, Md.] will strengthen each organization and reinforce our cybersecurity efforts.”

In his comments, Lynn also stressed the importance of the private sector in establishing cybersecurity policy and securing national interests in cyberspace. He highlighted progress being made in the Defense Industrial Base Cyber Pilot program, a public-private partnership effort to share threat intelligence that was rolled out with the DOD cyber strategy in July.

Lynn said that his office is in the middle of an initial 90-day pilot initiative that has already stopped hundreds of intrusions, and an expansion to include more agencies and organizations is under consideration.