A year after the head of Navy cyber operations rolled out key goals for operating in cyberspace, the service has made encouraging progress. But many challenges remain ahead as the service works to operate the network as a war fighting platform, shrink the attack surface and provide defense in depth.

Understanding the environment, necessary tools and capabilities; partnering and sharing the right information with the right people for results; establishing cyber situational awareness; and maintaining and evolving the Navy cyber workforce are among the top priorities for Navy Fleet Cyber, according to Commander Vice Adm. Jan Tighe.

Vice Adm. Jan Tighe listed a number of Navy Fleet Cyber's top priorities, including understanding the environment, necessary tools and capabilities; partnering and sharing key information with the right people; building cyber situational awareness; and propelling the cyber workforce.

"Cyberspace, the electromagnetic spectrum and even space…is a very chaotic and disruptive place on a daily basis. How do we prevent ourselves from simply reacting?" Tighe said Feb. 17 at the AFCEA West 2016 conference in San Diego, California. "Beyond the bounds of Fleet Cyber Command — for us to look internally at ourselves and only be focused on our performance, accomplishments [and] progress is not sufficient to deal with that chaotic and evolving world. So we need to talk about how we form partnerships and partner with each other in a way that’s productive."

That startsed with clarifying end states, which Tighe said was not as easy as it might sound.: That includes divvying up accountabilities, determining who is responsible for what strategies, who is contributing what capabilities and continually assessing progress. Educating the rest of the Navy on what the cyber domain is about and the roles played in the cyber domain was also part of strategic planning.

"We ask ourselves, are we doing the right things and are we doing things right? We have a regular drumbeat and assess where that is…assess where we stand on delivering on our goals," she said. "I don't mean to tell you we're perfect at this yet. We are laying the tracks by which, as the domain moves and morphs...we have the train tracks to get as ahead of adversaries without having to rip up everything and start over. Our plan is agile….that's how we're moving down the road."

Tighe said that cyber situational awareness is an area that continues to develop and that also relies on partnerships. To move forward on that, the Navy has been piloting capabilities with systems commands to monitor network performance, sensors and the posture of any given unit to create shared situational awareness — and to do it in less manual, more automated ways that boost agility.

As the military, including the Navy, look at creating a cyber division, Tighe said it’s important to maintain the cyber workforce built up over the past year and closely examine how it that workforce would evolve into a separate cyber division.

"There is a wide range of different kinds of roles…in systems commands, in the operational force, and in the rest of fleet, ranging from providing cyber capabilities to doing systems administrator work to doing defensive cyber operations to creating tools that will aid in defense and the delivery of offensive effects," she said. "What I view as the cyber workforce [is] bigger than the [Defense Department-wide] cyber mission force, are all those people involved. Pulling that apart to have another service is a challenge. We're integrated into all the other domains, so how would you pull that force apart and what effect would that have on execution? We have to figure that out before we go forward."

SHOW REPORTER: See more from West 2016.