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Optimizing the DoD Information Visualization Environment

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Five key challenges the agency can overcome with secure tools to better streamline processes, collaborate across teams and other stakeholders, and accomplish this common operating picture.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is facing some of the most daunting global issues in its history. From understanding growing cybersecurity threats to protecting the nation from unrelenting adversaries, the need to organize and visualize information at the speed of relevance is more critical than ever.

The US Cyber Command Technical Challenge Problem Set outlined significant challenge areas and pressing needs.

  • Challenges: infrastructure and teleport, vulnerabilities and export and network security, monitoring and visualization.

  • Solution: Understand adversary activities in the information environment and seek tools to filter out the noise, understand the critical elements, and enable proactive mission execution.

The DoD, like many modern organizations, has a “place” problem—teams needing to collaborate around aggregated information from geographically dispersed locations have been met with a void of persistent, secure, virtual places to meet and work. Only a thoroughly digitized agency capable of analyzing adversary activities in the information environment can meet today’s increasingly complex and interconnected challenges.

In the case of the DoD, such virtual workspaces must deliver a common operating picture (COP) to drive better understanding of such threats, and tie information operations and cyber activity to decision-making. Such a common operating picture would improve response times, decrease errors, and enhance decision-making effectiveness.

Creating a visualization environment for the DoD addresses five key challenges.

1. Data sources—and volume—are increasing exponentially.

Unlike a traditional COP that is fixed at a set number of inputs, the Cyber environment must dynamically incorporate inputs from emerging sources, including AI and ML outputs, third-party monitoring tools, and live streams.

2. Locations of SMEs who need access is multiplying.

Deep cyber subject-matter expertise is increasingly spread across the globe. As technology gets more complicated, the SME community is becoming ever more specialized and geographically distributed.

3. Information sharing demands are complicated.

Successful cyber command requires forging deep partnerships not only among DoD and government stakeholders, but also across industry and academia. Creating and managing multiple secure viewports into a COP is similar in complexity to Multi-Domain Operations (MDO).

4. The speed of decision-making is paramount.

The cyber-attack surface is increasing every day, requiring teams to make more decisions more quickly on more subjects than ever before. The information visualization environment must support the OODA loop and be agile enough to adapt as situations evolve.

5. “Tool fatigue” is increasing.

As domain knowledge becomes increasingly specialized, team members are overwhelmed with the number of systems with which they need to be familiar, and are hesitant to implement innovative technology that will require a learning curve greater than a few minutes.

To overcome these challenges and strive towards improving the DoD’s information environment visualization, teams must be equipped with secure tools to better streamline processes, collaborate across teams and other stakeholders, and accomplish this common operating picture. Tools should allow for ideation, brainstorming, program management, and empower collaboration at the edge. With these tools in place, agencies can overcome the “problem of place,” remain agile and accomplish ever changing mission critical tasks.

Aligning to the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) memo in July of 2022, agencies should work with their CIOs to assess the status of online collaboration tools, cloud-based software, and cybersecurity to support a distributed workforce. Read more about how secure online whiteboarding and real-time situational awareness offer an innovative solution that’s the next best thing to being in the same room.