How cross-domain technologies are central to JADC2 success

Computer security


How cross-domain technologies are central to JADC2 success

Today’s cold reality is that the United States’ advantage in intelligence-gathering and military force is being chipped away. The era in which the U.S. could outspend and out-innovate its competition is more or less over. Near-peer adversaries, including Russia and China, have aggressively pursued programs, including the theft of sensitive weapon systems data, to directly and indirectly counter U.S. dominance.

In turn, it is perhaps more important than ever that the U.S. can rapidly neutralize threats. Our success and security hinge on our ability to quickly understand the battle space -- from the tactical to the strategic -- to calibrate our posture proactively and act decisively. 

Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) attempts to answer this need by connecting distributed sensors, effectors and C2 centers. Through frictionless inter- and intra-operational domain data exchanges, the U.S. aims to maximize the lethality of distributed platforms. Cross-domain solutions are an essential element of these important exchanges.

Moving data securely and quickly

In simplest terms, cross-domain solutions, also known as guard or transfer solutions, enable high-assurance connectivity to networks and classification levels that would otherwise be kept separate. When it comes to protecting sensitive information as it moves between networks of differing classification levels, airport security offers a compelling parallel. People need to travel, and they must be validated and inspected before boarding an aircraft. Similarly, agencies must establish bidirectional communications between networks -- but without putting classified data and systems at risk. Cross-domain guards offer checks, much like airport security protocols, to allow secure data sharing between and within segmented networks.

Cross-domain solutions also increase data movement efficiencies. They optimize the route data travels from source to destination, thereby reducing latency and the strain on bandwidth. For example, guard transfer solutions on airborne and space platforms can permit sensors at one classification level to communicate directly with users in the same area of responsibility at different classification levels. Additionally, that communication can happen without having to backhaul data to a rear-area location for processing and then move it back into the theater of operations at the classification level of the intended user.

Adding on commercial technology

Cross-domain solutions can be extended via the National Security Agency’s Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) approved products. NSA debuted this program, which approved use of commercial encryption technology (known as commercial off-the-shelf technology, or COTS) to protect classified information, several years ago.

Thanks to CSfC, agencies can use an approved virtual desktop infrastructure to allow remote users to access a single high-side network or multiple segmented networks at different classification levels without sensitive data residing on the actual endpoint. This can dramatically reduce end-user device touch maintenance while enhancing overall enterprise management and security. That’s a game changer. 

These access solutions also reduce bandwidth congestion, as data is not actually being moved from place to place, eliminating the need for multiple laptops for each security level while enabling dynamic provisioning of additional security levels as needed. For example, tactical users requiring access to networks from anywhere are now able to use inexpensive commodity laptops or ruggedized versions with wireless connectivity by leveraging CSfC.

The bottom line

Adoption of CSfC has gained momentum in recent months driven by the coronavirus-induced shift to telework and a new willingness of the Defense Department to allow classified processing outside of government secured facilities. But this trend is also relevant to JADC2. The evolving nature of today’s intelligence and military infospheres, foundational to JADC2, necessitates rapid and precise data exchanges between sensors, effectors and C2 centers operating anywhere -- from extremely austere locations at the tactical edge to large mission clouds such as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure and milCloud 2.0.

Cross-domain solutions, expanded with commercial technology, represent the foundation of that exchange, and they will play a crucial role in detecting threats as our military advantage on the world stage faces increasingly tough competition. They allow properly authenticated users the ability to view information on multiple networks without requiring separate workstations and separate network connectivity for each classification level.

By relying on software-based cross-domain solutions, government employees can access classified resources at one level or varying levels from a single thin client—which is a key part of the rapid data exchange necessary to neutralize threats, maximize the lethality of distributed platforms and keep our country safe.

About the Authors

Ward Heinke is vice president, strategic alliances for Forcepoint global governments and critical infrastructure.

Joseph Brendler currently serves as an independent consultant, a principal at Deep Water Point and a member of Forcepoint’s advisory board.

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