Army CDO pushes tech companies to be more interoperable with one another

KANDAHAR, KANDAHAR PROVINCE - JUNE 06: A soldier stands on an M-ATV, the heavily-armored successor to the Humvee, at a US Army base in Kandahar province June 06, 2010 in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. The M-ATV and other mine-resistant vehicles have almost completely replaced the venerable Humvee for transporting American forces around in Afghanistan, using innovations like thicker, irregularly-shaped windows to help protect troops from deadly roadside bombs and other explosions. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

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The Army wants contractors to offer tech that is interoperable with other parts of industry in order for it to meet data and cybersecurity goals.

This message comes from Army Chief Data Officer David Markowitz, who said that to achieve its new requirements like zero-trust security, industry needs to follow new guidelines that allow technology from different companies to work together.

That’s a departure from the competitive business practices that often lead to “vendor lock,” where contractors provide technology that only works with other systems that it owns or approves of and limits the government’s ability to consider new solutions on the market.

“It would be very helpful for industry to be interoperable with itself,” Markowitz said during the Billington Cybersecurity Summit.

To support its interoperability, the Army is working on an enterprise Application Programming Interface (API) that allows different systems to communicate with each other.

Having industry interoperability and an enterprise API would bring the service closer to implementing the recent cybersecurity executive order mandating agencies move toward zero-trust network architecture. With its current patchwork of systems and data management tools, the Army is “still struggling” to implement new cybersecurity mandates, Markowitz said.

“We are looking to industry … and we would really like a good price,” he said.

Markowitz added that if industry builds interoperability into its systems, the Army can also rethink how it can license tech from industry. If systems work together across companies, the Army would not need to buy entire suites of systems but instead license specific tools that could work across systems.

“We could mix and match with what we think is best,” he said.

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Army, chief data officer (CDO), David Markowitz, zero trust
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