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Innovation, speed, modernization and sound protection can and must coexist

Ed Benton (standing) teaches Operations Security courses as James Johnson observes.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Sandy Simison)

During an Operations Security course in 2016 at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, Ed Benton (standing) teaches about critical information as James Johnson observes. (U.S. Air Force photo/Sandy Simison)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – As we revolutionize acquisition, we must also revolutionize our protection methods.

We no longer have the luxury to spend decades developing new systems for the warfighter. Due to the global threat dynamic, we must rethink the acquisition process from start to finish to procure new products - not in decades, but months, weeks or even days. However, as we develop and field new advanced systems it’s of equal importance that we preserve the integrity of these systems that we increasingly rely upon.

It is of national strategic importance that we build and maintain the most advanced fighting force in the world. We must prepare not for the conflicts of today, but for the conflicts of tomorrow. This is encapsulated in the DOD Digital Modernization Strategy released in July 2019. This new strategy focuses on four strategic initiatives: innovation for advantage, optimization, resilient cybersecurity and cultivation of talent.

If the day comes when we must go against a near-peer adversary, the advanced nature of our weapon systems is only as good as the sound protection and technological advancement that is incorporated into their development and throughout sustainment. Our extensive efforts to modernize our fighting force can be undermined if our adversaries gain in-depth knowledge and access to the systems we are developing to maintain our strategic advantage.

It is for this reason that our protection efforts must evolve alongside the acquisition process to become partners in the same mission: fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace. Incorporating protection methods from concept through prototype and retaining maximal responsiveness to potential security concerns during fielding will help ensure flexibility in the protection of our assets.

Moving forward, it is critical that personnel integrate protection measures in every step of development and through sustainment. It’s also important to remain flexible because the climate in which we operate and the systems we field are entering an increasingly dynamic world. It is only when those in the acquisition and protection workforce combine their efforts can we truly create a culture that produces protected technologically advanced assets that the warfighter depends on for mission success.

Sound protection is not the enemy of innovation, it is a partner in securing our nation’s strategic global advantage.