The Give & Take Between the Department of Defense and the Tech Industry: Myths and What they Share

A series of Medium posts based on my new book, “An Approach to Machine Learning in Cyber Defense for the DoD”.

An Approach to Machine Learning in Cyber Defense for the DoD,” available on

Let’s start with the similarities between the two:

Here are their differences, and misconceptions:

The nature of the respective businesses differ, at least at first glance.

The world has a ways to go to get everyone online. Source.

So, your very very opinionated opinions aside… are the two sides more similar to one another? Or are we just dependent on each other for success?

Misconception: Security is a bigger concern for the DoD than it is for a company like Google (or any other large tech company).

Most hacked (attempted and data breaches) entities in the world. See full visualization here.

If a commercial entity’s services in the tech sector are considered compromised or breached, that company risks no longer existing in a handful of years. The government? Life goes on. It does not disappear.

Companies like Google have vested interests- for the purpose of survival- to keep their Ad clicks going in a secure environment. Or else, most of their revenue disappears.

Misconception: All the DoD does is kill people. The mission of the DoD is lethal in nature.

Why this is wrong:

While lethality is definitely what pops up in the movies the most when it comes to the subject of the Armed Forces, in fact, the lethal option is often the last option that anyone in the DoD wants to exercise when it comes to accomplishing the mission.

Think about it.

Even during training, safety first. Lifejackets always.

These situations tend to happen when the DoD is not armed with all of the data it could possibly have to enable fully informed decisions. Or, rather, they might have the data, but not the infrastructure, technology, or talent to put the data to use for them. Sounds like a common problem we hear about in the commercial sector, too. Except for a handful of DoD members and units, this oftentimes means lives on the line.

Notice the total % of lethal, combat specialty personnel in the DoD was estimated at 15% (post the height of the surge). Source.
For curiosity’s sake- the % of support vs. combat functions in armies across the world. Source.

Misconception: Large tech companies deal with more data than the Department of Defense ever could, does, or will in the future.

A day in data, handled mostly by large tech companies. See full infographic here.
The closest thing I could find to show how much data the DoD *might* have. Source.

What might be the differentiator between the two entities is how they manage, deal with, organize, and consume their data sources. But when it comes to how much data… this might be a tough call for a winner.

While many at tech companies might not be able to fathom the data diversity and scale at the DoD, I also need to caution DoD members from underestimating how much data large tech companies might face.

Because there are so many devices on the network, the tech company handles security and management of networked devices (thousands, if not millions) in an abstracted and automated manner. Nodes fade into abstracted clusters grouped by characteristics, traits, and behaviors.

Because there could never be enough engineers to handle watching each and every node on the network.

So. We have gone over some similarities. And many differences and misconceptions. What now?

Stay tuned, and read my next post on how the tech industry and the Department of Defense could come together in a multitude of ways to not only bolster each other, but ensure neither one ceases to exist or is compromised in the future.

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