Air Force Gen. Darren McDew, chief of U.S. Transportation Command, is striking a precarious balance between partnering with industry and ensuring the cybersecurity of systems critical to military transportation operations.

TRANSCOM, like the rest of the military, is heavily reliant contractors in virtually every facet of day-to-day functions. But even as leaders from across the Department of Defense call for improvements in industry partnerships, cybersecurity remains a sticking point.

In an April 10 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, McDew lamented “the inadequacy of implementing existing cybersecurity standards and the fact that DoD’s extensive cyber protections do not extend to industry, critical vulnerabilities in our cyber security posture.”

Air Force Gen. Darren McDew attends a nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 14, 2015. Gen. Paul Selva was nominated to be Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. McDew was nominated to be the commander of U.S. Transportation Command.
Air Force Gen. Darren McDew attends a nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, July 14, 2015. Gen. Paul Selva was nominated to be Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. McDew was nominated to be the commander of U.S. Transportation Command.

He noted that 90 percent of military logistics and global movement operations are executed on unclassified commercial networks that are beyond his control – and they’re also the most vulnerable.

“Defending DoD information on those commercial networks goes beyond the authority of a single combatant commander,” he said in his written testimony.

McDew outlined some of his command’s efforts to address cyber vulnerabilities, including instituting better cyber training, engaging industry in dialogue and information-sharing, and modifying contracts to include IT and cybersecurity measures targeting compliance and assessments. McDew also said “cyber events” have been incorporated into major training exercises.

The TRANSCOM chief also highlighted the command’s future-facing efforts, including a department-wide transition to all digital applications to the cloud – expected to be complete in summer 2018 – and partnerships with the Defense Innovation Unit-Experimental, Defense Digital Services and the Strategic Capabilities Office to build a forthcoming “data lake” to be tapped for logistical command, control and intelligence.

“Transitioning our systems to the cloud and building the data lake are the foundational steps to realizing the potential in future technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and autonomy,” he said. “Focusing on these technologies will also allow the enterprise to pursue a future in autonomous systems – trucks that drive themselves, ships that can navigate oceans without human inputs, and wide-body aircraft that can land on their own.”