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American Forces Press Service

Panelists Brainstorm to Buffer Against Supply Chain Threat

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2012 – Defense Department and National Security Agency officials met with members of academia and industry today to discuss managing and protecting an ever-more-global, commercial and financially complex supply chain.

As National Cyber Security Awareness month approaches in October, panelists framed dialogue at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies to explore how its significant investment in cyberspace supports global missions.

Brett Lambert, deputy assistant secretary of defense for manufacturing and industrial base, and Dennis Bartko, special assistant for cyber at NSA, were part of the panel.

The defense industrial base, Lambert said, comprises a diverse set of companies that provide products and services directly and indirectly to the military and NSA.

He added that the industrial base is not a monolithic entity. Rather, it includes companies that run the gamut from major companies to garage start-ups.

While some companies deal directly with the federal government, Lambert said, the vast majority of suppliers, subcontractors and providers are in a value chain that leads to those private contractors, often 10 to 15 times removed.

“Some products and services are sold by companies in the defense industrial base that are truly unique to defense applications, he said, “but most have substantial levels of nondefense demand or even [are] sold exclusively on commercial terms.” Just as some suppliers may not realize their product is used in a military system, he added, DOD, in turn, may not realize it depends on a commercial component.

“For decades, the United States has commanded a decisive lead in the quality and quantity of the defense-related research and engineering conducted globally,” Lambert said. He also noted the critical role the U.S. defense industrial base supply chain plays in equipping the military with superior and “technically vibrant” capabilities.

“We rely on our industrial supply chain to develop, build and ultimately maintain the goods and services upon which our warfighters’ lives depend, as well as the lives of the citizens they defend,” Lambert said.

However, DOD and NSA are concerned about protecting the valuable information that’s contained within cyberspace, the experts said.

“Cyberspace is where our nation stores its treasure and its wealth -- our treasure being the intellectual property of our nation … and our wealth, not being so much the money that we print or the coins that we mint, but the bits and databases that actually represent that,” Bartko said.

The use of cyberspace, he added, has enhanced national security, economic competiveness, public safety and civil liberties, but challenges and threats remain and derive from various origins, tools and techniques.

Insider threats through cyber networks over remote access are one example of things that could jeopardize critical supply chains, Bartko said, and determining solutions requires a recognition and understanding of cyberspace’s main attribute: convergence.

Media such as video, telephone systems, text messaging and email were separate before the advent of smartphones, tablets and similar devices, Barkto noted.

“Cyberspace was created from separate elements that were converging over time increasingly [and] became [what] we call the Internet and … cyberspace,” he said, resulting in a need for integration in buffering supply chains. And continual change also is critical, as information contained in cyberspace exponentially increases, Bartko said.

“We know that cyberspace is not going to be the same tomorrow as it is today,” he said. “Our response needs to be highly agile.”

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