Interview with BGen Patrice Sabourin, Director General Information Capabilities Force Development (DGICFD)

The development of informa­tion capabilities is an inte­gral part of equipping the Canadian Armed Forces to defend in the increasingly contested future battlespace. Leading the charge in this area is the newly renamed or­ganization Director General Information Capabilities Force Development (DGICFD). Formerly known as Director General Cyber, the DGICFD is transform­ing to meet the challenges in the informa­tion domain. 

Recently, Vanguard had the opportu­nity to speak with BGen Patrice Sabourin, DGICFD. 

BGen Sabourin started his career in 1987 at the Royal Military College in St- Jean. His first appointment upon gradua­tion was at 71 Comm Gp in St-Hubert. In 1997, he was posted to Ottawa to become the first Ops O of the National System Management Centre (NSMC), which eventually became the CF Network Operations Centre (CFNOC). His first appointment as a Major was at the PeopleSoft project and after two years, he returned to work at CFNOC. 

In 2005, BGen Sabourin was posted to Winnipeg as the Wing Telecommunications & Information Services Officer (WTISO). Promoted to LCol in 2007, he was posted back to Ottawa as the Technical Services Officer (TSO) for the Canadian Forces Support Unit (Ottawa) (CFSU(O)). In 2009, he was posted to Bagotville as the Wing Logistics and Engineering Officer (WLEO). He then returned to Ottawa for the third time and worked at the Air Staff in the new Directorate of Air Domain Development (DADD). Promoted to Colonel in 2014, he was appointed the Director of Cyber Force Development and appointed as Commander Canadian Forces Information Operations Group (CFIOG). 

He was promoted to his current rank in June 2018 and was appointed the Director General Information Management Operations. BGen Sabourin is currently the Director General Information Capabilities Force Development (DGICFD). 

Given that the DGICFD is a new position within the IM Group, what man­date have you been given, and how does DGICFD intersect with other organiza­tions and mandates across the CAF J6, Assistant Deputy Minister (Information Management)/Defence Chief Information Officer Organization (ADM(IM)/Defence CIO, and DND/CAF? 

Formerly known as Director General Cyber, the organization was renamed to Director General Information Capabilities Force Development (DGICFD). However, this is more than just a cosmetic change; the division is going through a significant transformation to tackle the broader chal­lenges of our time and setting the right conditions for the future. No longer in the industrial age, the information age has drastically altered the world as a whole and ushered in challenges which are com­plex and multi-faceted. DGICFD’s man­date is to spearhead the efforts to identify and shape information capabilities, which are required to enable Canadian Armed Forces operations and the business of de­fence. We need to develop the Information Capabilities that will allow us to operate with more agility in the ever increasingly con­tested future battle space. 

We are all working together towards common goals. Assistance Deputy Minister(Information Management / Defence CIO Organization (ADM(IM)/Defence CIO) is at the epicen­tre of the swelling appetite the institution is developing for information capabilities, and ultimately the enthusiasm is needed to support the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Being technologically for­ward and positive are essential compo­nents to maintaining the front and center stance needed to keep pace with the rapidly evolving global landscape, which now in­corporates an expanding array of friendly and disruptive technological solutions. The ADM(IM) and CAF J6 must contend with operational demands, unique to military considerations, as well as with the corpo­rate business imperatives required to sup­port defence endeavours. DGICFD is at the center of understanding these problem sets and incorporating them into a frame­work that will in turn shape investments and risk strategies. 

The IM Group contributes towards Op Laser, and the move to conducting business from home has to be considered a major accomplishment. Do you have any afterthoughts about how the spring and summer have evolved? Do you see further changes as the CAF returns to more normal operations? 

In order to defend defence, we needed to modernize the business of defence by continuously improving the way we work and operate – streamlining processes and pio­neering new ways of collaborating efficiently and effectively across all levels of the orga­nization in order to deliver superior results. 

Given the extenuating circumstances from COVID-19, increasing connectivity and providing alternative working solu­tions for the Defence Team to allow for remote work was a priority. It is critical that Defence continues to protect and safeguard the integrity and availability of its networks for operational priorities and support. In collaboration with SSC, the IM Group spearheaded two distinct but equal­ly important initiatives to increase the ca­pacity of the department to work remotely without compromising security. The first initiative focused on increasing the num­ber of personnel who could access our in­ternal applications and tools. The second oversaw the implementation of Defence O365, which enabled people to work using their own personnel device early on and increased collaboration within a dispersed workforce significantly. 

The increase in network capacity and the use of Defence O365 complemented one another. The use of Defence O365 on personal devices is being maximized to al­leviate the requirements for DND issued mobile devices. This platform will comple­ment existing systems in place to improve the remote work experience and enable all DND/CAF personnel to virtually con­nect with their teams from anywhere. The Defence Team is not the only one affected by these changes; we see all other govern­ment bodies (and the private sector) work­ing to adapt to the new environment. 

One of the lessons that the pandemic has taught us is that we need to be looking fur­ther ahead to make sure that we have built the necessary ‘road map’. It needs to be mapped out to allow for rapid decisions for the development and improvement of our cyber and digital capabilities, not only for the ongoing situation, but also for any fu­ture operating environment. 

It is a significant undertaking to map all initiatives that impact ADM(IM) with Strong, Secure, Engaged Major Projects. Beyond mapping, it is also important to identify gaps in our cyber and digital capa­bilities, and direct resources in a deliberate way, using analytics and scientific rigour. An overarching Roadmap will help senior leadership and executives to understand the present and end states for the organiza­tion, informing the allocation of funds, as well as the acceptance of certain risks. 

Essential to the framework is the defini­tion of future Information Capabilities re­quirements. The intellectual precision in as­sessing the maturity, state, and performance of information capabilities, both current and target, will identify future gaps early. Thoughtful business intervention will pay dividends, as new capabilities will be intro­duced and implemented in a planned and purposeful way, as opposed to ad-hoc solu­tions being expediently brought into ser­vice urgently to stopgap a critical deficiency. 

The “Cyber and C2 portfolio” of capital programs within DGICFD has a lot of projects in definition or options analysis. These include Net C2 ISAC, CD DARICAM Sup, and ITI in Sp of C2. What are the most compelling goals and objec­tives you are seeking to achieve across this portfolio and what procurement activity do you anticipate in 2021? 

Two essential projects in Options Analysis that I wish to highlight are Identity Credential and Access Management proj­ect (ICAM), and Information Technology Infrastructure in Support of C2 project (ITI in Sp of C2). 

These projects are compelling as they set the stage for the organization to mod­ernize the foundation data centric infor­mation capabilities. It is important to understand that when speaking about the Information Age, we are no longer fo­cused on the technology, but rather what is crucially important: Data. No longer are any weapon system platforms just tools. Most modern equipment is also a sensor, collecting a significant amount of data. 

The future lies in Data-Centric- Computing. The Cloud is where we are heading, and it is a question of when, not if. However, in order to realize the full po­tential of the opportunities the Cloud pro­vides, it is an absolute imperative to solve questions related to data management and governance, thus management of, and access to, the systems as a whole. 

The ICAM project is the foremost ini­tiative within defense that is set to address deficiencies in digital identity manage­ment and access control. It will enable the department to improve the accuracy and efficiency of identity, credential, and access control management. In moving to the Cloud, ICAM will improve security in ensuring only the right people have access to the data needed to do their jobs. ICAM is the gateway and unlocks the potential for successfully implementing many future initiatives, leveraging them to their full ca­pacity. 

The ITI in Sp of C2 project: The com­plexity of some of our networks creates challenges in meeting modern operational requirements. DND/CAF employs an aging suite of discrete, legacy computer networks to exchange information at the secret level. A reduction in the number of networks and infrastructure is needed to reduce complexity and potential risk. Our recent experience with Defence O365 and other partner initiatives has illuminated the power of moving our legacy infrastructure to the cloud. It is currently envisioned that the project will leverage, if possible, a Secret Public Cloud infrastructure. Additionally, in order to enable strong well-defined access controls, a unified holistic network is required for Data Centric Security and system of systems architecture, with many new technologies, hinging on large amounts of data to transfer. Disparate networks are cumbersome, expen­sive, and labour-intensive, but the biggest challenge is that the distribution of information is being hampered. It is potentially impossible to provide to a commander with information in a timely and comprehensible way to support pivotal decision making. ITI in Sp of C2 is the instrument to break down the barriers to enable the free flow of information. The name speaks for itself; the ultimate goal is the en­ablement of Command and Control (C2).

Together, ICAM and ITI in Sp of C2 are symbiotic and will be the pillars of mod­ernizing DND and the CAF. However, as mentioned previously, we are already look­ing at the future and we are accelerating the development of the capability to further in­tegrate existing and future weapon systems into a networked, joint system-of-systems that will enable the flow of information among multiple, interconnected platforms and operational headquarters. Collection platforms, including aircraft, remote piloted systems, land vehicles, ships, satellites, and ground sensors, have the ability to capture voluminous data of intelligence interest from multiple domains. The Modernized Command and Control Information System project will enable this data to be shared in near real-time, and integrated and assessed with modern analytical tools. It will be interoperable with Allied capabilities, promote all domain situational awareness and enhance command decision speed. Its architecture will be resilient, secure from exploitation and responsive to rapidly changing requirements. 

In the last year, the idea of Secure Cloud has become a main theme for future C4I. How did this dramatic change in thinking evolve?

We cannot have a discussion about Cloud without having one about Data. The rea­son that Cloud solutions are one of the primary topics of conversation is because our modern world revolves around the problem of information. Data sovereignty and management are the biggest questions of our time. We have all this data, but there remain many questions around proper management and protection protocols. 

Additionally, the proliferation of tech­nology has changed the face of weapons systems. We say every system is a sensor, however, this phraseology simplifies the concept. In order to achieve success in a modern landscape, it is essential for all assets to be integrated in a holistic man­ner. Purchasing a next-generation system without the proper infrastructure in place to utilize and incorporate all the data and information potential is far from optimal. 

We are starting to consider all weapons systems as tools, as peripherals, like the hands and feet of the human body. In turn, the supporting IM/IT infrastruc­ture, and all the supporting Information Capabilities, are the nervous systems, the connective tissue which keeps the body functioning and moving the right away.

No longer can our systems and networks be disparate, and Secure Cloud will help us achieve this unified architecture for the or­ganization. This is where the technologi­cal possibilities offered by methodologies such as Data Centric Computing come into play. They will allow for the DND digital landscape to gain the flexibility and the capacity which it requires, in a way which the organization can afford.

Information Technology (IT) is no lon­ger the supporting system it was during its infancy stages. The traditional weapon sys­tems, such as tanks, aircraft, and ships, can no longer successfully be employed with­out information capabilities and the digi­tal backbone. Every system is now a data node. This is also potentially a weakness as modern militaries will increasingly rely on Cyber Space for advantages over the adversaries. Threat actors can travel along all the interconnected branches in un­predictable ways, and through the Cyber domain, compromising national safety and objectives. Geographical proximity and economic power have ceased to be requirements to wage war, and the threat landscape has been altered in ways that are complex to navigate. 

“Secure Cloud” is being considered ini­tially in defence with the delivery of ITI in Sp of C2. It is one of the investments to stay ahead of our adversaries and remain competitive in the global arena, mitigat­ing risks while seizing opportunities. The Government of Canada and DND/CAF recognize that cloud computing offers key benefits in terms of IT efficiency, along with providing future access to big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence to enhance decision-making. Almost two years ago, DND/CAF estab­lished the Joint Defence Cloud Program (JDCP) to focus on support to operations using cloud technology to strategically ex­ploit enhanced IT effectiveness while pro­tecting and securing its information and IT assets. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, these preparations enabled us to rapidly offer a cloud enterprise in response.

ADM(IM) had a big success with launch­ing Defence O365. It is an ambitious project that ordinarily would take even large IT organizations several months to rollout. Innovative solutions, such as the rolling out of Defence O365, are necessary in order to enable the department to con­tinue to communicate and collaborate in an effort to carry on with as much of the day to day business of Defence as possible. Our usage of Defence O365 has only increased our goals to move some of our classified ac­tivities to the Cloud. 

The VCDS and SADM have issued guidance and direction for moving for­ward as a digital organization. Where do you see the DND and CAF embracing dig­ital – not just the technological elements but the methods, talents, and ways of working that other leading organizations are adopting? 

As part of implementing new technology, it is essential to have comprehensive pro­cesses in place for individuals and the orga­nization to be able to harness the potential of any tool. 

When updating policies and governance to incorporate new paradigms, considerations must be explored to understand where a solution fits into the broader mandate. 

DND and CAF pride themselves on pro­viding state-of-the-art training to members on all subject-matter. The key to retention is talent man­agement, and, especially where the Cyber Force is concerned, there is a commitment to give individuals the skills necessary to go above and beyond in executing their duties. The Cyber Force is a unique opportunity for any Canadian. We are seeking talent in dynamic ways among all facets of the popu­lations, and then exposing the members to advanced technologies and methodologies. In this way, we are using the innovative initia­tives within the organization to recruit and retain personnel. 

Finally, are there new partnerships in moving forward on a digital agenda – for C4ISR specifically and what are your challenges in allowing new partnering approaches and relationships to evolve? 

DGICFD’s mission revolves around matur­ing the rigour of Force Development in re­gards to the Information Capabilities port­folio. Our collaborative approach aims to bring all stakeholders together in order to shape the information requirements to be delivered. We are constantly and consis­tently in active discussions with the broader defense communities, including industry, academia, and allies, to best engineer an ap­proach and solutions to truly address the current and future needs and hurdles that the organization will inevitably face. 

The main objective is to build a Roadmap of all Information Capabilities spanning the horizon by adopting the “Conceive, Design, Build and Manage” methodol­ogy. The roadmap efforts will combine various initiatives, superimposing a variety of gap analysis efforts. The Division is the focal point of these, collaborating with ADM(S&T) and other organizations, to explore innovative ways to solve future problems. The internal governance pro­cesses will also be renewed to better align with the delivery of the overall information programme, as driven by Major and Minor Capital Project efforts. 

As always, we are continuing to work with our partners in industry, our allies and other government departments to en­hance our capabilities and to ensure that DND/CAF has the best equipment avail­able in support of operations as we fur­ther our work to effectively manage data and information. 

This division will continue to sponsor mi­nor and major capital projects within the ADM(IM)/Defence CIO Organization and increase its capacity to work with other L1 sponsors to holistically and effectively integrate the technology requirements of various military platforms and systems.