Lt. Col Nadine Nally - Battalion Commander, 781st Military Intelligence Battalion, U.S. Army


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Earlier this year, U.S. Cyber Command announced that it had reached full operational capability, with 6,200 soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and civilians put in place to conduct cyberspace operations on behalf of the U.S. government.

In the middle of it all was Lt. Col Nadine Nally, who helped build, train, and support the Army’s National Cyber Protection Teams, which defend the Department of Defense’s information network, protect priority missions and prepare cyber forces for combat.

Recently, Nally was appointed commander of the Army’s 781st Military Intelligence Battalion, overseeing how the military unit will further use hackers to support the service’s mission.

CyberScoop: What’s the biggest thing the cybersecurity industry has improved upon in the last 12 months?

Lt. Col. Nadine Nally: I guess it goes back to how we look at the support of the government. From an industry perspective, I mean being able to provide some lessons learned and tools, techniques and processes that support some of the initiatives that we have within the Department of Defense. Specifically, taking a look at their capabilities from an industry perspective and bringing it to bear. This goes back to my time as a national CPT lead, we want to be Be able to have that quick response to the customer, being obviously the U.S. Army in this instance.

CS: So there has been a lot of changes at U.S. Cyber Command over the past year. In your opinion, how have things changed or improved?

NN: I think we’re in a really sweet spot right now because over the last 12 months, we had the change of the director from Adm. Mike Rogers to Gen. Paul Nakasone. Also, all of the teams, as of July, became fully operational. It’s a window of opportunity for us to make changes.

A lot of changes have not occurred yet because the focus was getting all those teams to full operational capability. But now we’re at a point that the teams are fully operational. So Gen. Nakasone is more inclined to look at the current structure and figure out from a service component how to fill out his ranks within the Cyber National Mission Force, so it’s able to support not only the C2 [command and control] structure, but also the mission perspective. I think a lot of changes are going to be taking place, and likely in the next three to four weeks, you will start to see some changes roll out.

CS: What’s the one thing that the private sector can help the military with when it comes to the forthcoming changes?

NN: Being able to use some of the platforms from the private sector. I sent a group of my guys out to Black Hat and DEF CON. They were able to bring some of those lessons learned from the private sector. I think that goes back to utilizing industry to as we understand some of the threats that have occurred over the last 10 years. We look at the disruptive threats, the destructive threats, this type of for-profit threats, but we partner with private sector to figure out how we can get after the alarming trends. I think if there’s technical solutions out there from the private sector, we can embrace that and they can be incorporated into the whole-of-government approach. If we can thread the private sector into that process, I think that will be beneficial.

CS: Within the industry, there is so much talk about automation and taking humans out of the equation as much as possible. Do you see that strategy being beneficial for Cyber Command in the future? What more do you see in terms of automation when it comes to the mission set?

NN: The guys that we have, they’re operating in a complex environment, and it’s changing rapidly. It’s hard for us to keep up with the pace … so when you look at machine learning and artificial intelligence, we could use that and monitor specific aspects of soldiers’ individual performance. For example, the time that it takes to complete a routine task, the arrival and departure to work, or things that could give us as commanders early warning to an individual. Figuring out how soldiers may be suffering from low morale or dealing with a yet-to-be-recognized mental issue. Those are things that are important to me as a commander. Early intervention is key, it helps to create a healthy command climate. So if we could in any way incorporate AI tools or machine learning into that aspect into our workforce, I think we would benefit from that.