Amid the furor over WikiLeaks’ release of State Department embassy cables, the nation’s No. 2 military officer on Wednesday strongly endorsed the warfighting value of information-sharing.
“What we’ve found in many of the cases to be our competitive advantage on the battlefield is getting as much knowledge to the edge as you can and not knowing exactly on any given day or on any given transaction what knowledge is going to be important,” Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a question-and-answer session at the National Press Club.
Although the WikiLeaks breach could be a setback for information-sharing Cartwright said, “I think probably my job is to make sure that it isn’t.”
But the balance between need-to-know and need-to-share is fluid, Cartwright acknowledged. While the military’s information technology systems have tended to follow the commercial model of disseminating information as quickly as possible, he said, they are now being redesigned to detect “anomalous behavior.”
“We’re moving to both identity- and role-based models so we know who’s doing what and that they have the right credentials,” Cartwright said in a brief interview after the forum. He did not however, foresee any attempt to restrict the number of people with access to the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet. The network is used for transmission of information up to the secret classification level.
Although no one has been formally accused of giving the State Department records – as well as hundreds of thousands of military documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – to WikiLeaks, the military has charged Pfc. Bradley Manning with exceeding his authorized access to a SIPRNet computer to obtain more than 150,000 diplomatic cables, among other alleged offenses.
I played highlights of Gen. Cartwright’s presentation on the show today. You can watch the entire event below: