West 2020

CNO: Navy ‘leaning in’ on information warfare

The Navy has undergone numerous lines of effort to realign its force to operate in the cyber domain and better conduct information warfare, including strategies and service-wide assessments, and it's better positioned the force to meet emerging threats, according to the Chief of Naval Operations.

"With respect to cyber threats, we're putting a tremendous amount of effort into that. We're organizing for success there. It's a very, very fast-moving problem, but we are, I think, structured now," CNO Adm. John Richardson said Feb. 19 at the West 2016 conference in San Diego, California. "We've gone through the assessment phase, Task Force Cyber Awakening, and that introspection has led to a number of organizational moves we've made. We're getting ourselves set and we're moving out with programs to establish standards for security."

Task Force Cyber Awakening, a sweeping, Navy-wide cyber and IT security evaluation, revealed much about where the service was falling short in protecting its software and hardware. The result is an increased awareness across the Navy, as well as more concrete efforts to "bake in" security into new systems and platforms, including starting with the acquisition process. But the effort is ongoing, and it means toeing a fine line between locking down for security and maintaining freedom to maneuver, Richardson said.

"Maybe we were a little naive before — we need to go back and instill security in some of our systems. So we're looking both ways, into the past and into the future, to enhance security overall. But we have to keep an open mind as well," he said. "We're leaning forward into this — to fail to do that would be neglectful. But it's just as neglectful to deny our agility if we don't exploit everything we can to achieve that [required] agility. So we're trying to strike that balance going forward to maintain security and agility."

Richardson said he's open to testing out capabilities and to trial and error in the process of finding that balance, particularly when it comes to the cyber domain and information warfare.

"I think information warfare is a rich area for experimentation as we move forward and mainstream information warfare into the way we do business," he said. "We're going to change the way we do business, and you can sense the pace quickening. If you're not quickening along with it…you can have the best roster of defensive players in the NFL, but if you can't keep up with no-huddle offense…you're never going to be ready when the ball is snapped. It's not just the competitors but the character of game that's changing, and we have to change along with it."

SHOW REPORTER: See more from West 2016.

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