Why Zero-Trust Deployment Requires an Adequate Workforce
New guidelines that can help military branches and defense agencies handle the transition are on their way, Beavers said. The DOD’s Zero Trust Portfolio Management Office is expected to provide guidance on data tagging and labeling by the end of this year, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s update of its privacy framework is also due.
“There’s still work to be done as we go into the cloud, figuring out how we do zero trust in the cloud, between a variety of clouds and different security classifications,” she said. DOD is working closely with the National Security Agency on that aspect.
One obstacle to overcome, however, is workforce capabilities. About 225,000 people hold cyber-related jobs in the DOD; the vacancy rate among civilian-held posts alone is 24 percent, “and that’s really high,” Beavers said.
“Our goal is to cut that in half within two years,” she added. “We’re doing that by identifying some creative ways to recruit, partnering in ways that we haven’t done before and working on the retention side.”
Service Members Look to Better the User Experience
Beavers wants to focus particularly on user experience within the DOD. As a retired Air Force officer who still serves as a reservist, she’s familiar with the pain points the average service member faces.
“There is no bigger champion of this than me,” she said. “I’ve gone through the growing pains of a variety of IT infrastructure challenges. This is a multiyear, multilayer problem, more than just a technical refresh.”
In addition to the aging hardware — in the midst of being replaced, she said — reservists and National Guard members face further issues because they’re not recognized as readily on non-Air Force networks.
“Active duty, you may not feel the pain as much as your reservist and National Guard brethren — you can end up on Air Force networks, and the Air Force is pretty good about maintaining connectivity,” she added. “But when you’re Guard and Reserve, and you’re at the whims of another service, it gets a little spotty.”
DOD is standing up a user experience portfolio management office, similar to the zero-trust office, to take a broad, long-term approach to fixing the problem, she said.