Magazine article National Defense

Defense Dept. Gripped by Fear of the Millennials

Magazine article National Defense

Defense Dept. Gripped by Fear of the Millennials

Article excerpt

* Cybersecurity czars spend billions of dollars building virtual wails to protect the Pentagon's vast computer networks from relentless attacks by hackers, worms and viruses.

But they are now confronting what could be their most difficult challenge yet--the Web 2.0 revolution.

All the wonderful new ways in which the Internet has taken over the world--social networking, wikis, collaboration, user communities, smartphones--are proving to be huge headaches for the Defense Department. All this emphasis on information sharing, participation and empowerment of users is anathema to the Pentagon's restrictive "we only do business inside our walls" philosophy. Outside the walls, things are way too scary.

It turns out that the worst offenders of the Pentagon's cyber-security code are not the Chinese or the Iranians, but its own young employees--both civilians and military troops in their teens and 20s--commonly known as the "millennials."

Their bosses can't fathom why millennials have to stay plugged into their social networks 24/7 at work and why they are so compelled to "share" and "comment" about everything. Why is it so hard for them to stay inside the firewall?

Millennials, incidentally, are also the Pentagon's target audience. They are being recruited to join the military and to replace an aging civilian workforce. To their surprise, millennials find that the world inside the firewalls is not Web 2.0-friendly. At the Pentagon, generals and colonels go to meetings with pens and notepads. The 20-something troops mostly live by Metcalfe's Law, spreading information with viral infection.

The Millennial weltanschauung stirs apprehension in senior commanders because they feel they are being second-guessed. The military has been notorious for cracking down on blogging, and it once tried to shut down troops' access to Facebook.

The fear of intruders overwhelmingly overrides the desire to enjoy the conveniences that Web 2.0 has to offer.

"I absolutely believe in lockdown," says Roberta Stempfley, deputy CIO at the Defense Information Systems Agency.

The gatekeepers struggle with how to enable troops in the field to do their jobs without compromising security, she tells an industry conference. Although the Army calls itself a "net-centric" force, troops in war zones have limited access to the Internet or to mobile devices. …

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