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DOD looks to collaborate on technology supply chain with ‘Five Eyes’ allies

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The Defense Department has been increasingly focusing on the security of emerging technologies. Inside Defense reports about a recent meeting between the US DoD and its fellow ‘five eyes’ partners where strengthening security and resilience of modern command, control and communications systems were discussed.

The Defense Department and its fellow “Five Eyes” partners are discussing how they can work as a collective industrial base to manage supply chain security risks for emerging technologies, such as fifth-generation telecommunications systems.

At a meeting of the Five Eyes military chief information officers earlier this month in Canberra, Australia, officials discussed supply-chain concerns and potential industrial base cooperation, according to Charles Forte, CIO for the United Kingdom Ministry of defense.

“I don’t see any barriers to pursuing the collective targeting of exactly that theme,” Forte said during the Nov. 21 Atlantic Future Forum hosted aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) off the coast of Annapolis, MD. “I think we are probably already beginning to do that.”

The Five Eyes is a longstanding intelligence sharing alliance between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

DOD CIO Dana Deasy, speaking alongside Forte at the forum, confirmed supply chain was on the agenda at Canberra and highlighted telecommunications networks as one priority area.

“We talked about, so how do you actually get after this and what part of the supply chain and what are those products that matter most that you want to work on?” Deasy said. “Obviously right now 5G is one that has a significant amount of conversation space and it’s one that we’re spending a significant amount of time on what does the supply chain need to look like in the future?”

The conversations between the Five Eyes nations come as Pentagon officials worry about accessing technologies from a global industrial base while also protecting the supply chains for critical military supply systems from adversaries like China. Last month, DOD’s top technology official ordered a new review of the defense industrial base to identify steps to increase its depth, breadth and security.

Earlier in the forum, Deasy said the Pentagon needs to change its acquisition and contracting processes to integrate commercial technologies like artificial intelligence products into its current industrial base, which is dominated by just a few large companies.

“If you look outbound to the future and you think about the use of new technologies, whether it be AI, robotics, autonomous weapons, or how we’re going to use cyber in the future, we are going to have to lean heavier and heavier on a much broader U.S. commercial base,” Deasy said. “That means changes for us inside the Department of Defense.”

Speaking with Inside Defense following the forum, Deasy said the conversations about technology supply chains between the Five Eyes partners are in their “early stages.” But he said the discussions involve all aspects about modernizing command, control and communications systems to be secure and resilient.

“Whether it’s your laptop, a phone, a weapon system, a navigation system, it’s all about how do you ensure the integrity of that system and everything from the component level to the integration, how can you ensure security,” Deasy said. “This is why it’s such a large, complicated problem to solve.”

 

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