A: What do you see as the biggest cyber challenges, and potential solutions, for the Department of Defense?
GF: The security environment in the United States today is more diverse and more dangerous than ever. The nation faces a significant number of critical threats from hostile nation states, terrorist organizations and a growing array of hybrid threats that are more complex than we would have imagined a decade ago, linking different adversaries in coordinated campaigns against our national security.
To successfully defend against these multi-tiered threats, the DoD—in partnership with the Intelligence Community and other federal agencies—must provide viable options and capabilities to our policy-makers. That means military commanders and law enforcement officials must have access to effective intelligence support, and highly trained and prepared cyber forces able to actively defend our critical assets.
We need to enable situational awareness and full spectrum defensive and offensive capabilities to arm decision-makers with a full range of cyber options in our current volatile security environment. That includes delivering the most up-to-date technologies to improve the ability to withstand potentially devastating attacks.
A: How would you assess the current state of digital technology across the industry?
GF: We know our adversaries are keeping up with advances in technology. It is essential we do better. These new technologies must be woven into our cyber-operational platforms in a way that maintains continuity of operations, while allowing for the addition of innovative new capabilities on the fly. The DoD will benefit from continued advances in intelligent automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence programs that facilitate integration and enhanced decision-making through meaningful data. We will need to incorporate these new capabilities into the Cyber Command and Control Systems and into the Military Cyber Operational Platform—our Cyber Mission Forces deserve the most effective capabilities that we can bring to the field.
The United States can be counted on for global technological superiority. We must focus on areas where we do hold the advantage: AI, encryption, robotics, integrated surveillance/sensor technologies, smart platforms, commercial satellites and advanced sensors. Our nation’s ability to continually innovate and adapt is key to maintaining our edge.
As a global leader in digital innovation, Accenture is playing a central role in providing the critical readiness support our clients need to accelerate and establish a modern IT enterprise, enhanced cyber defense, advanced analytics, intelligent automation, artificial intelligence and predictive modeling.
A: Your career in the military spanned more than three decades. What are the most important lessons you have taken from that experience?
GF: I learned early in my career that both effective data collection and analysis were critical to carrying out the mission. My job as a young intelligence staff officer in an Armor Battalion was to advise my commander with the latest actionable intelligence and to prevent our adversaries from gaining intelligence on our plans and intentions. To do this I had to work closely with units on the ground, with scouts, and other collectors to observe the battlefield and to collect and process reports from front line units—and to prevent enemy scouts from collecting against our troops. Throughout my career as I transitioned into cyber operations, as Commander of the National Mission Force and as the Director of Operations at US Cyber Command, I never forgot the value and importance of intelligence and operational security to our mission.
A: Is there one person or moment that most influenced you during your years in military cyber defense?
GF: In 2006, as a Colonel, I was commanding the Army’s Signals Intelligence Brigade, the 704th MI. I was tasked by General Keith Alexander and Major General John DeFreitas with leading a great team in designing, organizing and establishing the Army’s first operational cyber battalion. Before then, we had a capable but small team conducting cyber operations, so this represented a major step for the Army and being part of this mission was something that changed the direction of not only my career but our nation’s cyber defense.
After that, I held a series of cyber staff and command positions working for General Alexander, who was an influential figure in my military career. I was fortunate to be assigned to the U.S. Cyber Command as the headquarters was being formed, and again when the Secretary of Defense approved the creation of the Cyber Mission Force. GEN Alexander is an incredible leader and mentor. He provided great vision, trusted his team to do their jobs, coached, guided, and always set the highest standards. And he always treated everyone with the highest level of dignity and respect, no matter the demands of the mission.