The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Mission Partner Environments (MPEs) are largely net-centric. However, as the department continues to develop MPEs, it will need to increase operational capability, requiring a paradigm shift from net-centricity to data-centricity, according to a DoD official.

MPEs allow the U.S. military and its allies to communicate, collaborate, and share sensitive or classified information securely and in real time.

“Globally integrated operations require our combatant commands to share information with partners and sometimes with each other,” Stuart Whitehead, the deputy director for Cyber and C4 Integration of the DoD’s Joint Staff J6, said during an Aug. 17 webinar hosted by GovExec and GDIT. “It’s more than just procedures, it requires our understanding of how we can connect our technologies to make sure that we can operate seamlessly.”

However, as technology rapidly evolves, building and maintaining MPEs is increasingly complex.

“Which is why today we find ourselves in a paradigm shift from net-centricity to data-centricity,” Whitehead said.

“Using data-centric tools and approaches to manage and access information differently gives the military services and its allies more flexibility,” he said.

Adopting a data-centric approach provides maximum interoperability and flexibility to the warfighter and its coalition partners. It would ensure that the transport layer in MPEs becomes more agnostic when managing different information-sharing relationships.

A data-centric approach also gives the services the ability to operate dynamically in time as mission partners join or leave MPEs and the management of the data itself. It also is a springboard to implementing things like the DoD’s IT modernization strategy.

In addition, Whitehead explained that a challenge in the current environment is delays in information sharing because of security concerns, which can hamstring the way the services and their partners want to operate.

In a data-centric environment, the department will have cross-domain solutions or guards external to that environment, but with information shared purposefully, the department will implement zero trust principles like metadata tags, ICAM, and other types of data management techniques to enable the rapid movement of information while at the same time ensuring security.

However, Whitehead warned that while security is critical, it cannot hinder operational capabilities.

“Our experience has demonstrated that sometimes it can take hours to do simple processes simply because of our security concerns,” Whitehead said. “I think moving forward, we have to be mindful always of security, but we also want to make sure that it’s not at the expense of our operational capability.”

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.