The U.S. Navy and its revitalized CIO office are looking to modernize its systems and capabilities, with artificial intelligence (AI) as a tool to tackle a complicated environment, said Christopher Cleary, Navy CISO, in a November 12 speech.

Speaking at GovExec’s AI and the Next Generation of Cybersecurity event, Cleary referenced the reorganization of the Navy CIO office in September 2019, and the modernization work that officials are working together to tackle.

“We would probably readily admit to one degree or another that the Navy’s network and transport layer is 10 to 15 years behind where it needs to be,” he said. “We’ve allowed the environment to be built by many architects over time … and we’ve acknowledged that [our] tech refresh and the way we’ve had to get up the physical infrastructure and the transport layer hasn’t been as focused as it needs to be,” he added.

In the modernization process, the Navy is looking to AI tools to make the process easier. On the security side, Cleary noted the potential to improve network monitoring, with the service branch piloting the approach at the Naval Postgraduate School.

“The effort that we’re going with at the Naval Postgraduate School is about, ‘How do I bring in some artificial intelligence into the environment that can learn the environment and then to some degree monitor that change?’ There are some technologies out there that do this, but I think from an adoption standpoint, the Navy has been a little slow to pick up on it,” he said. “If we can bring continuous monitoring through some level of artificial intelligence or machine learning into the environment, it then takes theoretically thousands of man hours I don’t have to leverage to do paperwork drills,” he added.

AI is only one tool though, and Cleary emphasized that the end goal is about a better system.

“Everything that we’re pursuing in the AI/ML world is only to make this problem simpler,” he stated. “There’s not enough trained people to do the work that we need to be done, and the environment is not getting any simpler.”

Cleary noted that the CIO’s office has benefitted from collaboration across the Navy, and is looking to bring these updates with speed.

“As a guy that came from industry back into the government, it is frustrating to see some of the bureaucracy within the Department of Defense and our speed to move and adoption, but what I would say is leadership is changing in such a way that they are open to these conversations and recognize that we’re not moving fast enough,” he noted.

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MeriTalk Staff