Cyber Command Chief: DoD Moving to the Cloud

By Aliya Sternstein

The Defense Department organization charged with cyber combat is reinforcing military networks by moving much of DoD's computing to a space many civilian agencies view as insecure - the cloud. Cloud computing is the practice of storing and accessing applications in a shared online environment, instead of on in-house servers.

U.S. Cyber Command chief Gen. Keith Alexander told lawmakers on Wednesday the following:

"The idea is to reduce vulnerabilities inherent in the current architecture and to exploit the advantages of cloud computing and thin-client networks, moving the programs and the data that users need away from the thousands of desktops we now use--up to a centralized configuration that will give us wider availability of applications and data combined with tighter control over accesses and vulnerabilities and more timely mitigation of the latter."

He was testifying before a House Armed Services subcommittee on the $159 million fiscal 2012 budget request for the command, which became fully operational in October.

The White House has been pressing agencies to outsource information technology services to the Web as a way of phasing out the federal government's more than 2,000 expensive, energy-sucking data centers. But many federal managers are fearful of losing their data in the cloud. What happens in the event of an online outage or if the communal, off-site servers storing their programs are hacked?

Alexander's explanation as to why the cloud will offer Defense good defense:

"This architecture would seem at first glance to be vulnerable to insider threats -- indeed, no system that human beings use can be made immune to abuse -- but we are convinced the controls and tools that will be built into the cloud will ensure that people cannot see any data beyond what they need for their jobs and will be swiftly identified if they make unauthorized attempts to access data."