The Pacific Rim is a massive geographic region and one of strategic importance to the United States. Spanning thousands of miles and 36 countries, this region comprises half of the world’s population. Protecting American interests here is an enormous undertaking that falls to the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), the oldest and largest of the unified combatant commands.
That’s why every two years USINDOPACOM participates in the Talisman Sabre exercise. It brings together thousands of service personnel who practice operating with mission partners in a joint environment to support operations and maintain stability in the region. This year’s Talisman Sabre exercise was the tenth such exercise and the largest one ever, convening more than 30,000 military personnel from 13 countries. Over the span of several months, GDIT collaborated with U.S. Army’s I Corps to conduct a specific set of exercises designed to control access to data – including in austere and disconnected environments – as it is dynamically obtained and stored while working with foreign mission partners in a classified setting.
First at the Edge and First with Foreign Mission Partners
Our approach was to field a Zero Trust prototype, beginning with Identity, Credentialing and Access Management (ICAM), in a tactical environment at the edge. This was a first-of-its-kind prototype that was notable in three ways. It was the first-ever demonstration of a Zero Trust capability in the field to support Denied, Disrupted, Intermittent, and Limited (D-DIL) operations at the tactical edge. Second, it was the first time a Zero Trust capability was fielded at the edge while also integrated with foreign mission partners. The fielded prototype was also in direct response to the need for fielding advanced cyber protections resilient and flexible enough to the tactical environment.
In coordinated, multi-national environments – as the Talisman Sabre 2023 exercise is intended to replicate – rapid, secure, and seamless data sharing is central to the mission.
Going Beyond ICAM to Enable the Mission in Line with CJADC2
While ICAM is a foundational element and a starting point for this kind of data sharing, Zero Trust allows the military to make and enforce policy decisions on the fly about how, with whom, and under what conditions data is shared. With GDIT’s Everest Zero Trust tactical deployment solution, I Corps demonstrated the ability to manage access to data in a D-DIL environment. The solution can manage and ingest identities from mission partners and assign settings and permissions to users without creating new credentials.
Beyond protecting data, the solution enhances mission efficacy by enabling easy, secure, and dynamic data sharing in theater. It helps the warfighter by ensuring that the right people can access the right data with the right permissions at the right time to advance the mission. In this way, GDIT’s Everest Zero Trust solution is a true enabler of the mission and advances the principles of the Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control (CJADC2) initiative, which is all about securely connecting data and enabling smarter decision making. It is also a capability that is squarely aligned with the Zero Trust strategy from the Department of Defense’s Chief Information Office around operating in austere environments – a critical tactical imperative.
Capability Borne of Strategic, Edge-First Investment
GDIT’s ability to deliver a Zero Trust capability at the edge is a result of strategic investments in our digital accelerators, such as our Everest Zero Trust solution. Technological development began more than a year before the exercise itself, including demonstrations to a wide range of Army and USINDOPACOM stakeholders. To build this Zero Trust capability, we worked with technology partners such as Fornetix and Palo Alto Networks to integrate advanced technology with a tactical edge, DDIL-first approach. We control access to mission data using attribute-based and risk-adaptable access controls. The result is that not only are we able to offer a novel and differentiated solution to mission partners, but we are also able to support operations and mission continuity in austere environments.
As demonstrated during the Talisman Sabre 2023 exercise with I Corps and alongside our partner Fornetix, GDIT has delivered a tactical Zero Trust capability that provides combatants with a material advantage over the adversary. It keeps information secure from cyber-attacks and gives warfighters in theater working with foreign mission partners the ability to authenticate who they’re talking to and to dynamically collect, share and store data. Supporting this capability – and our partners in I Corps – in the most critical and demanding of environments is essential, and GDIT is proud to have been a part of bringing it to tactical operating environments at the edge.
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