WASHINGTON — The U.S. government must improve its ability to protect systems vital for military and civilian operations, such as GPS, the Navy’s top information warfare officer said Tuesday.

Speaking at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space symposium, Vice Adm. Jeffrey Trussler, deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare, said that what “worries” him is vulnerabilities in critical capabilities such as position, navigation and timing — which enables GPS — and other communications systems that aren’t controlled by a single entity.

“You can have the greatest machine war machine ever put to sea, but somehow, [if] it gets some misinformation — not a critical hack or something to the machine itself - but something that supplies that machine information, that can really throw it off,” Trussler said.

He said this is an area that the government and the commercial sector can work closer to reduce vulnerabilities. Defense and civilian leaders in the U.S. government have worked to reduce GPS vulnerabilities, which is particularly exposed to jamming threats.

One estimate from 2019 warned that a 30-day GPS outage could cost the U.S. $35 billion.

“We all want to be mustering up together to make sure that those things are secure, or that we have the resiliency to operate without or when they’re in a degraded environment,” Trussler said.

Speaking yesterday at the same conference, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley warned that the U.S. military must prepare for 40 or 50 new technologies that will fundamentally alter warfare in the future, such as artificial intelligence, 5G and unmanned systems.

Following up on Milley’s comments, Trussler Tuesday said that the department must prepare for the cybersecurity threats those technologies pose.

“That is vulnerability and attack surface area that we have to defend because we’re talking about technology being used in many different ways that we traditionally in the 20th century didn’t use,” Trussler said.

Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

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