Why the Pentagon’s cyber innovation could fall behind

Why the Pentagon’s cyber innovation could fall behind

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So where will the country’s hub of cybersecurity innovation reside? A new paper argues that a nucleus of new cybersecurity technologies may struggle to form in the United States.

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Because the Department of Defense’s research facilities are dispersed throughout the country and located in smaller metropolitan regions, the Army is in danger of stagnating when it comes to technology innovation, a Dec. 18 paperin the Army’s Cyber Defense Review argued.


“Without immediate, bold action, the Army will miss its best opportunity to seize the initiative in the current Cyber Cold War,” wrote Col. Stoney Trent, an Army official who now works for the Pentagon’s top IT officer in the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. “The Secretary of Defense fully understands the need for dramatic improvement, and fifteen years of Army acquisition failures have created the crisis necessary for change.”


Trent took aim at the Army’s decision to move its cyber headquarters to Fort Gordon, Georgia, saying it “lacks most of the characteristics that have attracted technologists to other innovation regions.”


“Limited public infrastructure and services, sparse employment options, a humid subtropical climate, a lack of a private research university, and distance from urban centers will likely delay the emergence of innovative technologists in Augusta-Richmond County,” he wrote.


The state of Georgia, which is partnering with the Army on innovation near Fort Gordon, opened the first phase of a planned a $100 million dollar center earlier this year.


But while Trent argued that the Army has “limited input over the location of its installations and major activities,” because basing decisions are made by Congress, the dispersed locations are not ideal for improving the Pentagon’s cyber prowess.


“Due to the location of Army research activities, very few scientists and engineers have access to the operators and analysts who will have to use the technologies under development,” he wrote.


On the contrary, large cities are engines of innovation because they have more local resources, a higher degree of subject area experts and a larger local workforce, Trent argued.


“This exponential increase in innovation is related to social networks and access to ideas, resources, and expertise in more populated urban settings.”


That makes locations like Moffett Air Field in Santa Clara County near Silicon Valley, Fort Devens near Boston, and Fort Hamilton in New York City as potential hubs that “have been left fallow,” Trent argued. “Decades of studies indicate the importance of a culture of experimentation. While our adversaries are experimenting, we must not dither.”