One way the Defense Information Systems Agency can lend a hand in the colloquial third offset effort is through the big data platform and continued work with industry on similar initiatives.

According to Col. Brian Lyttle, program executive officer for cyber at DISA, part of the third offset is the use of technology to get inside the adversary's decision-making cycle.

During a briefing at DISA's annual forecast to industry in Baltimore, Maryland, on Nov. 17, Lyttle said the agency's big data platform can play a role here. The big data platform, which was developed in concert with Army Cyber Command and is also playing a role in the Army's Defensive Cyberspace Operation infrastructure program, is a distributed computing environment that supports the ingest, correlation and visualization of multiple petabytes of data from Department of Defense Information Network sources.

DISA had been planning updates to a portion of its big data platform since August, specifically to the Cybersecurity Situational Awareness Analytic Cloud, to allow users to define a subset of  data for analytic processing and receive results in user-friendly dashboards that can be modified by operators, according to DISA Chief Technology Officer David Mihelcic.

"This can allow us to get inside the enemy's kill chain" before they can create effects on us, Lyttle said of the big data platform and its alignment with the third offset, adding that he is interested in innovation along these lines in the future.

DISA's cyber executive, John Hickey, provided a bit more context and insight into this notion in a briefing to reporters later in the day. In the future, Hickey said, it will be all about the ability to function with less humans in cyberspace. The ability to have an automated network that allows for maneuverability in a secure manner is DISA's key piece here, he said.

"How can we provide the network, and how do we defend the network to allow that information to flow?" he asked. Answer: "Things like big data platforms — either on premise or off premise from a cloud perspective — to take information" and not get stuck in the past, where there were limits in terms of relational databases, but to look at trends and flows both from a defensive and offensive standpoint. The integration of that from a cyberspace piece is enabling that.

In noting that DISA has gone out to the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental offices for help on this, there are still key questions that need to be answered, such as: What can be pulled from these firms, or what are those innovations that are happening and how quickly can government adopt them? Big data gives the structure to start with; then the analytics must be put on top to make sense of it.

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

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