WASHINGTON — Dr. Raj Iyer, Army Chief Information Officer, or CIO, spoke at the United States Army Europe and Africa 2022 Cybersecurity Summit, on July 26, where he highlighted the importance of zero trust, digital transformation, and talent acquisition.
Zero trust is a secure, digital ecosystem using cost-effective and innovative solutions to enable seamless interoperability in Multi-Domain Operations.
“The cyber domain knows no geographical boundaries and for someone to say, ‘Hey, I have a cyber problem here in Europe,’ is a bad statement. Why? Because there is no cyber-Europe; if there is a compromise here, it is only a matter of seconds before it is now in the United States Asia, or anywhere else in the world,” said Iyer.
He stated that the world is a new place since Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, however, “nothing has changed in the cyber domain; we all know our adversaries, China and Russia, have been very active in the cyber environment for several years.”
Cybersecurity Executive Order
Recently, Iyer explained, President Biden made his first executive order on cybersecurity following many years of aggression by Russia and China. The order is aimed at strengthening the United States’ ability to respond to cyber incidents and improve information sharing between the U.S. government and the private sector within his first hundred days in office.
“That was a game-changer; never before in history had a president taken cybersecurity that seriously,” said Iyer, “Our adversaries were taking advantage of everything from attacking our defense industrial base to our election and voting systems. Consequential, in terms of impact on the United States, this is not business as usual that was a clear recognition that something needs to be done.”
These recent events have highlighted the priority of cybersecurity throughout the Army, while heightening awareness and the need to stay vigilant, he said.
Digital Transformation and Cybersecurity
“I can tell you, not a week goes by when I'm with the Secretary of the Army, my boss and we're not talking cybersecurity. This is the level of attention it has now gotten in the Army and the Department of Defense,” said Iyer, “Digital transformation is all about data, and the first thing you must do is protect that data. That is where zero trust comes in, we must look at it from a unified lens because if you don't, we risk segregating cybersecurity.”
The zero-trust process is about continuously monitoring data, assuming data is compromised, and authenticating continuously.
“Our journey to zero-trust starts with our digital transformation. Why do zero trust and digital transformation go together?” asked Iyer. “We are vulnerable to data in both cases. Digital transformation is the same as how you leverage data to deliver new services, capabilities, operating models and transform organizations.”
He went on to further state that the Army’s ability to win in the future is directly tied to advantages that come with software more so than the hardware platforms.
“If you take that technology and then look at how we can leverage data to enable decision making, it becomes decision dominance through data; that truly is the secret sauce,” he said.
Iyer described finding the right people as one of his biggest challenges as Army CIO. He emphasized the importance of filling the cyber talent gap and that the Army plans to address this perennial challenge by rolling out the Cyber Excepted Service, a new talent model for the civilian cyber workforce, this year. The service will take advantage of every available tool to recruit and retain the cyber workforce.
“I always tell people if you're going to come work for the Army in this cyberspace, you're not doing it for the monetary benefits,” he said. “You are doing it because you now have a serious role in protecting the nation, just like any other cyber warrior, whether you're wearing the uniform or not.”