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Continuously Securing the Entire Cyber Domain is a Navy Priority

CIO Jane Rathbun said the department is addressing cybersecurity by “taking a holistic look” at its systems.

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Department of the Navy CIO Jane Rathbun
Department of the Navy CIO Jane Rathbun speaks during GovCIO Media & Research’s CyberScape Summit in Reston, Virginia, March 9, 2024. Photo Credit: Capitol Events Photography

The Department of the Navy is modernizing its infrastructure, leveraging emerging technology and training the cybersecurity workforce to secure communication at the tactical edge, Navy CIO Jane Rathbun said at GovCIO Media & Research’s CyberScape Summit Thursday.

“Our first and foremost goal is to securely move information from anywhere to anywhere,” Rathbun said during a fireside chat at the event. “That means at the tactical edge, where the warfighter needs to decide, orient, decide and act. So we want to make sure that the data that they’re getting is trustworthy and useful.”

Moving secure prepared data to all warfighters is integral to equipping them, Rathbun said. Emerging technology can help warfighters be more prepared for the number of decisions that need to be made in theater by advancing more prepared data at the edge instead of simple data at the edge.

“I can push all this data and have the warfighter at the edge, integrate it and make sense of it, and then prepare options for his commander to make decisions,” Rathbun said. “Or I can understand the kinds of decisions that need to be made and start training our [artificial intelligence and machine learning] models to produce data that will help them make those decisions.”

Evolving cyberthreats means that the workforce will also have to be nimble. Hiring and training cybersecurity employees across the department is a priority for Rathbun.

“In my role as the CIO, getting the right workforce — who really understands this environment and understands how to work and improve the control and management of data from a security perspective — is critical,” she said. “We are leveraging the myriad authorities that we’ve been given, … like the [DOD] Cyber Excepted Service, the cyber workforce, all of our people have been tagged, we are working on training initiatives and really pronouncing more loudly the role that they play in delivering capability to the warfighter. ”

The department has recently added new roles for Navy and Marines Corps cybersecurity personnel to strengthen its position in the cyber domain.

“We are beefing up our cybersecurity officers and enlisted workforce. The Navy just recently announced two designations for cyber officers and enlisted folks. The Marine Corps has also done the same thing,” Rathbun said. “We are taking cybersecurity seriously.”

Rathbun also noted that Cyber Ready, the Navy’s plan for transforming cybersecurity by pivoting from a compliance mindset to a dynamic model rooted in readiness and currency, puts the department on a better course adapting to future threats. Monitoring and adapting are at the core of the strategy, she said.

“How do we get adversarial threat assessment as a regular activity set of tools and activities that are occurring on our system so that we understand from test all the way forward?” she added.

Rathbun reiterated her vision for changing culture around technology.

“Our entire ecosystem works on this idea of different environments, networks based on the classification of the data, and this is a philosophical head-hurter,” Rathbun said. “We’ve got to change that paradigm if we’re really going to leverage these tools.”

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