PEO EIS Neighborhood Watch to serve as model for Army cybersecurity modernization

By Erika ChristApril 3, 2024

PEO EIS Chief Information Officer Michael Chappell speaks on a panel at AFCEA NOVA's Army IT Day in January 2024.
PEO EIS Chief Information Officer Michael Chappell speaks on a panel at AFCEA NOVA's Army IT Day in January 2024. (Photo Credit: Tara Clements, PEO EIS STRATCOMM ) VIEW ORIGINAL

U.S. Army Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) is working closely with senior Army leaders on an initiative to consolidate and centralize the service’s cyber defense capabilities by piloting a Neighborhood Watch program at EIS.

The Neighborhood Watch concept was hatched last year when PEO EIS Chief Information Officer Mike Chappell met with officials from the U.S. Army Cyber Command (ARCYBER) to discuss ways to build closer collaboration — specifically, the need to add clarity and capability to EIS’ role within the larger cyber defense at echelon approach.

Right now, according to PEO EIS Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Ali Mohammed, Army cyber defense efforts take place in “siloes of excellence,” with individual programs doing their own thing. At EIS, for example, there are 40 different systems that don’t talk with each other. Through the Neighborhood Watch program, EIS plans to “break down barriers,” said Mohammed, and collapse the programs’ separate cybersecurity solutions into a converged cyber defense capability on both unclassified and classified networks.

At a more technical level, Neighborhood Watch represents EIS’ effort over the next few years to consolidate its more than 26 Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) capabilities into one new SIEM plus Security Orchestration and Automation Response plus security validation environment solution that’s common across EIS and integrates transparently into the Army United SIEM (uSIEM) initiative, said Chappell.

“Each program has stood up its own capabilities and has innovative techniques and ways they’ve approached cyber defense,” said Chappell. “We want to be able to create an agile, standardized baseline and share cyber defense innovations across PEO EIS.”

ASA(ALT) leadership down through EIS headquarters and program managers are all in support. Now, Chappell is in the process of securing funding for the program. In recent months, he has met with senior Army leaders all the way up to the Under Secretary of the Army and gotten lots of good feedback and response, with PEO EIS seen as “setting a model for cyber defense at echelon across the Army,” said Chappell.

Chappell already has set in motion the hiring of a cyber defense lead underneath his CISO to run Neighborhood Watch. That person will head up an entire division that will perform cyber defense for programs across EIS’ portfolios. Once EIS builds a minimum viable capability release for its new, centralized cyber defense solution, the CIO’s office will transition programs into Neighborhood Watch in a phased and cost-effective approach. Chappell aims to have most of them incorporated by fiscal year 2026.

“This is the next step as we continually improve our work with ARCYBER and NETCOM, from headquarters all the way down to the engineers working on each of the programs,” said Chappell. The goal, he added, is to have a “shoulder to shoulder, force-multiplying cyber defense capability across the Army, starting here — and now — within EIS.”