Combatting Defense Supply Chain and Critical Infrastructure Vulnerability with AI

Just_Super/istockphoto.com

Effectively mapping supply chains is a critical national security priority.

“Amateurs talk about strategy…Professionals talk about logistics,” said U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Robert Barrow when discussing the true key to warfighting. The advice holds true in the wider context of national security, and over the past weeks, the professionals in Washington have spent plenty of time talking about logistics. Recently, the House Armed Services Committee released a bipartisan report on the need to protect defense supply chains, and the White House has issued a National Security Memorandum about the strategic importance of defending the country’s critical infrastructure.

While separate initiatives, both the Congressional report and the memo address the need to secure the logistics networks that underpin both our daily lives and America’s ability to defend itself. The two documents also emphasize the necessity of leveraging technology and private sector expertise to overcome security challenges. Whether ensuring pipelines and energy networks remain online or guaranteeing the U.S. military has the required tools and equipment, effective use of publicly available information is critical to success.

Understanding the Risks 

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities in modern supply chains—critical components of everything from toilet paper to medicine to munitions could not be sourced as factories and whole countries shut down. As made clear in the House report, defense supply chains are no different, and the Pentagon is pursuing strategies for achieving more comprehensive visibility into the exact origins of its tools, technology, equipment and weaponry. Effectively mapping supply chains is a critical national security priority. Knowing where material comes from can help to mitigate risk in the event of another pandemic-level event or in case an adversary like China or Russia attempts to interrupt America’s warfighting capability by cutting or slowing supply chains.

Assessing defense supply chain risk boils down to understanding the relationships of the contracting organizations that support the government’s mission. The public record on how companies are connected and how individuals relate to companies through ownership or executive positions is quite extensive, and it is also often very complex and hard to see clearly. Developing a comprehensive picture requires advanced tools that can thoroughly scour multiple data sources regardless of language; these tools must also automatically understand relationships and network dynamics. Using advanced technology—including artificial intelligence and machine learning processes—supply chains can be mapped and potential gaps or pain points identified, from connections with sanctioned parties and adversary-controlled entities to distribution bottlenecks and sole-source suppliers.

This process is fundamental to securing our defense supply chain as the U.S. seeks to ensure we have the rare earth elements, chemicals, materials and technology we need from sources we can trust. However, supply chain awareness is also vital to protecting America’s critical infrastructure. Each infrastructure sector has its own network for delivery, monitoring, and maintenance, and they all rely on systems, equipment, and components from around the world. Maintaining these networks in times of crisis and ensuring the trustworthiness of individual components presents a serious challenge for U.S. leaders.  Fortunately, private sector expertise can alleviate much of the burden and help mitigate the danger.

Bolstering Cyber Defense with Public Data 

While maintaining the physical integrity of critical infrastructure is important, the challenges of cybersecurity are paramount, as highlighted by the White House’s actions and the recent spate of hacks and ransomware attacks. Indeed, President Joe Biden recently warned of the very real risk that cyber actions could easily lead to kinetic war. Hardening critical infrastructure against cyberattacks will partly depend on the use of quality technical components; the processors, motherboards, circuits and software used with pipelines, power grids and production facilities must come from trusted, validated origins or risk being tainted with zero-day exploits and backdoor access by bad actors. This clearly shows the nexus between supply chains and cybersecurity.

On a technical front, combating cyber threats also requires a robust monitoring capability that can track threats and developments around the world. As government and industry coordinate efforts to prevent and respond to attacks, cybersecurity experts need tools that can persistently and automatically search for indicators of attack around the world and across the internet. These resources can be leveraged to identify elements threatening our supply chains, especially on the deep and dark web where cyber criminals and state-backed actors routinely operate. Such persistent monitoring may alert officials to potential leaks, may help identify system weaknesses, and may assist in exposing nefarious parties for future targeting by law enforcement.

All Hands on Deck: Public-Private Collaboration 

The logistical challenges facing the country are huge and must be met. As noted above, the good news is that the government does not have to overcome these challenges alone. By continually seeking publicly available information sources that can identify where supply chains are vulnerable and infrastructure is most at risk, industry tools can help keep bad actors at bay. Success moving forward will depend on a concerted effort between the government and experts in the private sector, which will ultimately solidify America’s security and ensure mission needs are met.

McDaniel Wicker is a vice president of strategy at Babel Street. 

NEXT STORY: The Secret to Happiness at Work

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.