Watchdog says Pentagon's effort to 'harmonize' cyber is lacking

A new Government Accountability Office report says the Pentagon's architecture to unify its cyber efforts lacks governance structure and goals.

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A watchdog report says the Pentagon's effort to "harmonize" its cyber capabilities, dubbed the Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture, lacks the governance structures and well-defined goals necessary to be successful.

U.S. Cyber Command "recently established two new offices that would be responsible for prioritizing JCWA program acquisition requirements but as of August 2020, had not yet assigned roles and responsibilities for these key offices," according to a Nov. 19 Government Accountability Office report.

"Until Cyber Command develops a governance structure for the new offices with defined roles and responsibilities, it risks delays in providing needed joint cyber warfare capabilities," the report continued.

GAO produced the report at the request of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which asked the watchdog to explain the JCWA and assess how well the Pentagon has defined its goals and governance structure that guides cyber system acquisitions.

Defense Department officials told GAO the JCWA is "only loosely an architecture," or that its purpose is to be an idea that connects various acquisitions. However, the watchdog said that the Pentagon's own policies define "architecture" more concretely, stating an architecture is "part of a system of systems that addresses overall system objectives and encompasses the functions, relationships, and dependencies of constituent systems."

The watchdog also said there are four acquisition programs "and two other types of cyber warfighting support" that U.S. Cyber Command considers as part of its architecture.

"Three of these four programs were at least in development before Cyber Command began linking them together to create a more capable set of systems," according to the report.

"The programs that already had defined, approved requirements could change depending on how Cyber Command develops the JCWA concept," the report continued.

Responding for the Pentagon, Kevin Fahey, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, concurred with GAO's recommendations that the defense secretary direct U.S. Cyber Command to "define and document JCWA goals for interoperability requirements to help synchronize acquisition efforts."

The Pentagon also concurred with a second recommendation to further develop the JCWA's governance structure, according to Fahey's response.