OCTOBER 21, 2016, PEARL HARBOR (NNS) – From wooden ships sailing off the coast to nuclear-powered submarines, the U.S. Navy has made great advances in technology and capability over the past 241 years. These advances resulted in large part from Sailors’ cyber internship, imaginations and fleet innovation.
From June 13 to Aug. 17, three Sailors from Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Hawaii and one Sailor from Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command (NDOC) Suffolk, Virginia, participated in a 10-week cyber internship hosted by the Telos Corporation in Ashburn, Virginia.
The internship was sponsored by MD5 National Security Technology Accelerator (MD5-NSTA) in partnership with U.S. Pacific Fleet’s The Bridge initiative and with technological support from Sandia National Lab, Idaho National Labs, and Pacific Northwest National Labs.
The Bridge is an initiative to encourage collaboration and idea generation by advancing education, enabling empowerment, stimulating connections, and spurring transition of encumbered ideas into enabled solutions.
“Success of The Bridge does not hinge on a series of successful ideas, but the ability to create and sustain a culture of change, inspiration, and creativity,” said Cmdr. Richard Lebron, director of Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Strategic Initiatives Group and The Bridge initiative founder. “In its simplest form, The Bridge is a belief and a commitment — the belief that the best ideas can come from anywhere, and a commitment that no Sailor is ever alone in pursuing a solution.”
The NIOC Hawaii Sailors selected were Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Johnson, Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Fulkerson, and Lt. j.g. John Vincent Deniega. The NCDOC Suffolk Sailor was Petty Officer Darren Espree.
“This was a unique experience for me,” said Deniega. “Before we arrived I [had] never met these three Sailors. I’ve never seen them, I didn’t even know what they did in the Navy or what their skill set was; but luckily when we found out what the task at hand was, that became our focus — that was the mission, and the cohesiveness of a team built around that and we did a great job.”
During the internship, they were provided unfamiliar technology and resources, and were challenged to create something new that could be used in today’s market.
The team created a tool using a suite of integrated technologies to provide an intrusion detection system that could support the Industrial Control Systems Security and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition market.
“We decided to go in that direction because that market had a problem that we felt we could solve with the given technologies,” said Johnson.
“Considering we claim that Sailors are our asymmetric advantage, I would say it is very important to explore, discover, and cultivate their ideas. Sailors want their feedback heard and considered. We owe it to them to do so, and we owe it to ourselves as a Navy to maximize the intellectual capacity resident within the force. Not all ideas will transition fully into a program or broad application; that is to say, not all ideas will be considered viable, feasible, or desirable, but they should all be heard and considered on their merits,” said Lebron.
Upon completing the internship, the new cyber threat tracking program they created is now being considered for further development at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia.
“These Sailors were almost randomly picked and they had never worked together before,” said Lebron. “In fact, one of them came from the East Coast while the other three came from Hawaii. In spite of this, they came together, coalesced as a team and delivered immediate results. They also delivered winning results. Their performance is a testament to the quality of the people we recruit and need to retain, the validity of our training and leadership development, and the ‘can do’ attitude of our Sailors in general.”
All four Sailors expressed their appreciation for this opportunity, both in terms of their outlook on the Navy and their job specialty.
“After being exposed to new technologies and work environments, I can bring back the knowledge I acquired and use it to help my command and the Navy,” said Johnson.
“This experience gave me a new outlook on what I want to do with my career,” said Espree. “It provided me with a new perspective of where I can go with my career. I recently submitted an Officer Candidate School package with the intent to lead Sailors on a broader scale.”
Lebron envisioned The Bridge as a graduate student pursuing an MBA at the University of Florida, prototyped an early version of the concept when he co-founded The Athena Project while serving as commanding officer of guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65), and then further matured the concept with the support of Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Scott Swift.
“It’s been a long-term vision articulated in a paper I published in Proceedings back in 2006,” said Lebron. “It is an idea that resonates with the times and with our commander’s intent. It fits the needs of the Navy and the nation now.”
“The Bridge is a powerful concept because it is founded on the principles of education, connection, empowerment, connection, and transition,” he added. “It resonates broadly because it is people-focused, and people are our most distinct organizational advantage.”