With West 2023 in the books, the attention of the Defense and Intelligence communities turned to this year’s Rocky Mountain Cyber Symposium (RMCS) hosted by AFCEA in Colorado Springs. The annual conference focused on the consolidation of the warfighting environment and how the United States Air Force will achieve its Zero Trust “end state” in the coming years.
As the Department of Defense and its agencies move towards compliance with the 2021 Executive Order on Cybersecurity, they will need to be able to collapse, consolidate, and simplify networks to streamline operations. Noted Lauren Knausenberger, CIO of the Air Force, “We can’t have 22 networks at Ramstein … We have to collapse as much as we can, and I do believe, with a little bit of effort, in the next two to three years, we should be able” to achieve that.
Indeed, with the speed at which the Department of Defense (DoD) as a whole has advanced on its Zero Trust roadmap and execution capability in recent months, this aggressive plan certainly looks achievable. The Air Force has recently deployed several Zero Trust pilot projects and while these projects are building a more robust infrastructure, Knausenberger noted that Zero Trust is acting as a multiplier on the overall modernization strategy resulting in “more money and attention from DOD.”
However, as cyber becomes, perhaps, the dominant theater of engagement, at least with adversaries like China, there is still much work to be done. The Air Force’s Lt. Gen. Kevin Kennedy, Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber (JFHQ-C) commander noted that China is laser-focused on stealing intelligence to not only stymie US activities but accelerate its own warfighting capabilities. This makes Knausenberger’s commitment to network consolidation even more important.
While technology is obviously the cornerstone of success for Zero Trust and the protection of the warfighting environment, RMCS 23 highlighted one other important element – partnership and collaboration. “The Rocky Mountain Cyber Symposium is one of the most valuable and engaging events of the year,” shared Heather Lacroix, President of Chronos Operations, LLC. “The AFCEA Rocky Mountain Chapter does a fantastic job at bringing the right military leadership, industry, and commercial partners together to discuss issues, like Zero Trust, that matter to the warfighter right now.”
With the motivation, technology, and enablement partners all able to meet together to listen and learn at RCMS 23 the Air Force is well on its way to achieving vital national security goals.