Pentagon pauses $2 billion cyber security project

Security system not ready for classified networks says watchdog

The Pentagon

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has reportedly frozen a $2 billion cyber security project designed to consolidate local network security following poor test results.

The DoD hit pause on the system, called the Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS), after a report from its director of operational test and evaluation Robert Behler, said Bloomberg.

The JRSS project is a partnership between the Army, Air Force, and Navy to consolidate their networking in secure hubs. Each stack is a suite of equipment serving multiple military bases in a single region handling firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, and other security operations over MPLS networks. The JRSS project also virtualizes network routing and upgrades the military's security from around 1,000 local security stacks worldwide to 50 across 11 JRSS sites in the US and five elsewhere, standardizing security operations.

The DoD began running traffic across JRSS installations as far back as 2014 and was supposed to have fully migrated to JRSS by the end of 2019, but problems have dogged the system.

According to Bloomberg, Behler's latest evaluation states the system is “unable to help network defenders protect DoD component networks against operationally realistic cyber attacks.”

Previous reports from the DoD's director of operational test and evaluation explained the system was inadequate, using the same wording. Behler warned in 2019 that "Despite its complexity, the DOD has treated JRSS as a “technology refresh” and has not funded the personnel and training typically associated with DoD acquisition programs of record." 

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That report, which also detailed a red team attack organized to test system security, advised the DoD to stop migrating new users to the system until it was operationally secure.

According to Bloomberg, the decision to pause the system follows a classified February 2020 report that also highlighted inadequate cyber security. As a result, Behler's latest report said that the Pentagon would reduce funding for the project next year, effectively pausing the expansion of the JRSS into classified networks until 2023.

The report also suggested the Pentagon continue developing alternatives to the JRSS.

In a 2019 report, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned the DoD had not fully completed several key initiatives to improve its cyber security hygiene, including cyber education and training, removing vulnerabilities from its networks, and integrating cyber security into its exercises.

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