Cybersecurity is at the forefront of national security concerns, as attempted attacks – and successful network breaches – are on the rise from both cybercriminals and Nation-States. In fact, the White House upped its Federal cyber-security budget 35 percent for FY17 to more aggressively strengthen the nation’s network against nefarious activity.
As part of this effort, the Department of Defense (DoD) embarked on an ambitious technology modernization and consolidation project as part of its Cyber Strategy in order to bolster the nation’s cyber-security defenses. It is critical that the DoD’s systems work cohesively at all times, including during infrastructure upgrades, which is where the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC) comes in. This certification will play an essential role in the DoD’s digital modernization and help accelerate the transition to next generation technology.
Increasing Complexity Requires Greater Interoperability
The DoD’s Cyber Strategy is wide-ranging: defend the DoD’s internal networks and infrastructure against cyber-attacks, defend the nation and our interests from cyber-attacks of “significant consequence” and equip the military with the cyber support it needs to perform its duties. To address these specific areas of concern, the DoD is creating more than 130 teams by the year 2018 which will be dedicated to executing the strategy.
With new teams forming on top of the many existing organizations within the DoD, the department is challenged with ensuring all these different groups can work seamlessly and intuitively together. And this is not just an intra-Department exercise. According to the Cyber Strategy, the DoD “must operate in partnership with other Departments and Agencies, international allies and partners, state and local governments, and, most importantly, the private sector.” With so many players involved in the DoD’s move to next gen technology, it will be a struggle to balance communication and information access while preventing vulnerabilities.
The Role of JITC
JITC certification via the Defense Information Systems Agency is a comprehensive testing and certification program that validates the interoperability capabilities of technology solutions from the private sector. Technology vendors participate in a lengthy and demanding process to achieve JITC certification, proving their solutions have the compliance, security and interoperability capabilities necessary for supporting one of the nation’s most important networks. Simply put, JITC assures us that new technology will assimilate and strengthen the DoD’s systems and allow heightened cyber-security measures to safeguard information across the DoD’s vast network.
As more vendors and solutions become JITC certified, this opens more options for the DoD to invest in the latest digital innovations, all the while being confident that certified solutions will complement the current architecture. JITC certification includes the bulk of the in-house testing and troubleshooting that many private sector companies have to perform during pilots or technology upgrades. These efforts ultimately accelerate the process of technology adoption across the DoD.
Interoperability is the key to making sure all parties are working in concert within the DoD and that they can collaborate and communicate effectively. So, JITC certification has remained a requirement for DoD IT technology that is critical for command and control and emergency communications.
A Set Menu of Certified Solutions
All DoD agencies are taking steps toward next generation systems, and JITC assists in the decision making process. While an enterprise in the private sector needs to research and shop around for the best option, the DoD is provided with a menu — the Approved Products List. These certified technologies are typically at various price points, and these solutions have already proven themselves to be best-of-breed in terms of the unique compliance standards of the DoD.
A set menu doesn’t mean agencies don’t have options, though. For example, certified solutions from several vendors can be integrated into one environment. The beauty of JITC certification is that no matter which solution various agencies are using, the solutions will work together seamlessly.
Moving Toward the Cloud
The DoD and many other Federal Government entities will always be living with legacy systems. That is, legacy technology will always play a necessary role within the Department’s network infrastructure. This means that drastic technology architecture upgrades, like the DoD’s current consolidation efforts, should follow an evolutionary path toward revolutionary technology.
Modernization conversations naturally include the cloud, and the key concerns for the DoD here are the security of data in the cloud and access to information on legacy systems.
JITC helps here, too. Certified next generation solutions that embrace the power of the cloud are now being tested with the DoD’s strict security standards, so government employees can be sure their communication and information is well protected against the prying eyes of cybercriminals or Nation-States.
JITC will also make certain that modern, cloud-enabled technologies will interoperate well with existing legacy infrastructure within the DoD. This allows for a seamless experience for users, without interruption to their work because of information access problems.
Because the DoD is so discerning in its technology choices, the entire life cycle of technology solutions should be considered. This means that upgrades shouldn’t just look backward at legacy systems, but also look forward to the Department’s needs down the road.
Solutions with JITC certification ensure that as new technology becomes legacy, or as technology is upgraded years from now, whatever the DoD invests in today will provide a seamless transition when the time comes. JITC certification is an ongoing process, too. Vendors are required to have their solutions re-certified every three years to maintain their certification, which allows the DoD to monitor and reevaluate its network solutions regularly.
JITC certification, especially in the area of Unified Communications, is an important building block for the DoD’s modernization efforts, and goes hand in hand with the laser focus on boosting the nation’s cyber-security. By ensuring that new technologies work together smoothly and securely, the DoD will have a better chance of keeping pace with the tech industry’s advancements now and in the future.