"In the future, we must build our cities on cyber."

That was the message Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Commander Col. Patrick M. Duggan delivered during a roundtable discussion with other cybersecurity experts and representatives from various Northern Virginia government agencies at the Northern Virginia Regional Commission in Fairfax, Va., May 11.

During the 90-minute meeting, Duggan shared insights into cybersecurity from a military perspective and explained their applicability to cyber-related issues facing city governments.

He put forward that, whereas cities have historically arisen alongside physical transportation routes such as rivers and railroads, contemporary cities must inevitably be reconstructed around the information superhighway.

Arguing that "key terrain of tomorrow is all about hyper-connection," Duggan stated that the crux of municipal governance going forward will be finding ways to mobilize cybertechnology as a means of linking together a jurisdiction's various human constituencies in a way that promotes interaction and innovation.

Noting the central role the military should play in this evolving landscape, Duggan added that "updating our concept of cities means also changing the mindset of military installations as isolated pockets to ones more deeply anchored into a broader digital ecosystem from which both can strategically harness these growing smart networks of all kinds."

Drawing on his experience as an installation commander, Duggan asserted that the entire notion of security must be redefined in a way that moves beyond a traditional focus on physical threats.

"The future of security is less about what you see and more about what you don't," he declared.

Citing "the emerging threats of virtualization, miniaturization and abstraction," Duggan emphasized that "we must explore the nexus between the traditional physical, logical and information realms to build a much more holistic approach in our age of perpetual terrorist and natural threats."

Finally, Duggan addressed the profound impacts that will be wrought by the "Internet of Things," the global network of cyber-connected digital devices that he said would grow to more than 50 billion by the year 2020.

"The Internet of Things will fundamentally change the business of city management as we know it," he said.

Duggan argued that city governments will need to partner with the military and private sectors to create new business models that can manage and monetize a scenario in which every individual is constantly emitting and receiving data from phones, tablets, wearables, ingestibles, vehicles, household appliances and countless other cyber nodes.

While underscoring the challenges of securing this networked infrastructure through such means as facial-structure recognition and artificial-intelligence biometrics, Duggan also pointed to opportunities for increasing productivity via beacon-based tracking, real-time traffic analytics, smart weather systems, driverless shuttles and autonomous snowplows and grass mowers.

"Everything that can be connected will be," Duggan predicted, emphasizing that municipal governments will have to adapt in order to manage the as yet unforeseen implications of a hyper-connected world.

Duggan spoke as part of a panel that included David Jordan, chief security officer, Arlington County; Dr. Margaret Leary, chair, cybersecurity, and director, curriculum, National Cyber Watch Center, Northern Virginia Community College; Andrew Smallwood, lead associate, Cyber Futures-Human Capital and Learning Team, Booz Allen Hamilton; and Lt. Col. Christopher Tomlinson, Fort Belvoir Garrison Headquarters Battalion commander.

Following the panelists' presentations, a considerable portion of the open discussion focused on how to develop new strategies for talent acquisition, management and retention, reaching beyond traditional recruitment channels in order to ensure that the cybersecurity workforce will be innovative and resourceful enough to meet any emergent threat.

"You're going to need some freewheeling, unconventional thinking -- like the hackers -- to approach problem solutions," Duggan noted.

Pentagram staff photojournalist Francis Chung can be reached at fchung@dcmilitary.com.