UGA, U.S. Army Cyber Command look to partner
By Lee Shearer, Online Athens
The University of Georgia and the U.S. Army’s Cybersecurity Command could soon be exchanging students and workers, according to a civilian Army official.
Ronald Pontius, deputy to the commanding general of the U.S. Army Cyber Command, said the command would take up University of Georgia Vice President for Research David Lee’s offer during a UGA conference on informatics, or big data.
“I say to all prospective partners, UGA is open for business,” Lee told a crowd of about 100 academics, private industry representatives and students in last week’s “Advancing Informatics in Government and Industry” at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education.
“We’re open for business and looking to build a partnership with the University of Georgia,” said Pontius, suggesting internships, research projects and young Cyber Command workers studying at UGA, among other possible
Pontius was the keynote speaker for the conference at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education, sponsored by UGA’s new Georgia Informatics Institutes for Research and Education.
The day also included panel discussions that included researchers from UGA and other universities as well as representatives of private companies, including the Southern Company, GlaxoSmithKline and Deloitte Consulting.
Pontius recalled the mid-century space race between the United States and the Soviet Union and the “tremendous partnership” then between academia, industry and government.
Now as then, “the very foundation of our national security is related to technology,” he said.
Pontius and three young Army lieutenants, all West Point graduates, described what the new Cybersecurity Command is: searching for “anomalies” with computers processing 10 to 40 terabytes of data a day, up to 150,000 digital events in a second.
Its responsibilities spill over into everything the Army does — logistics, health care, maintenance, weapons systems.
The overall Cyber Command has about 19,000 people worldwide, 80 percent military. Its activities include a joint task force that came together 17 months ago to “deal with ISIS in the cyber arena,” he said.
Both Pontius and the cadets spoke of a “fundamental change” in what the Cyber Command does since it was formed.
“What has fundamentally changed is that very complex things can be done by people who don’t have the super-complexity themselves,” he said.
The command is particularly focused on criminal behaviors in China, Iran, North Korea and other nations.
“It’s hard to tell the difference, especially with Russia,” what is state-sanctioned activity and what is criminal, he said. “It’s all very much intermingled.”
When Army Cyber was authorized in 2009, it was the Army’s first new command in 30 years, since Special Forces in 1987, Pontius said. Army officials deemed the new command fully operational last month. And soon, its headquarters will move from 11 buildings scattered across three states to Augusta’s Fort Gordon, Pontius said.
The new command is a part of the U.S. Cyber Command, which also includes Navy, Marine, Air Force and even Coast Guard units.
Built on open-source software, its responsibilities are both defensive and offensive, Pontius said.
Informatics is a major research initiative at UGA under President Jere Morehead and Provost Pamela Whitten, who introduced Pontius. Two years ago, Morehead approved hiring 10 new faculty members in informatics.
The new center’s head is engineering professor Kyle Johnsen, but informatics research spans 19 academic units across several of the university’s colleges and schools, including pharmacy; agricultural economics; management information systems in the business school; and geography, statistics, genetics and others in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.