News | April 10, 2024

Lakehurst's SCRM Lab Fills Gap in Digital Supply Chain

By Adam Hochron

The Supply Chain Risk Management (SCRM) Lab at Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst, New Jersey, is a little more than a year old, but is already showing a significant impact to supply chain security for the fleet.
One of the SCRM lab's critical assets is its members' flexibility to respond to evolving threats. For example, when a system is undergoing an Engineering Change Proposal, and engineers look at whether new equipment meets specifications, the SCRM lab evaluates where the equipment hardware and software is coming from and identifies potential vulnerabilities or threats in the supply chain.
Jack Menzies, the NAWCAD Lakehurst Cyber Team Lead for Data Analytics, said that working in cyber security for more than a decade has seen significant changes, with the SCRM lab just the latest example of providing new tools to support the warfighter. The ability to test for counterfeit or manipulated components is invaluable when adversaries are constantly looking for advantages in the virtual realm.
"Essentially, our goal is to fill a gap with respect to providing supply chain risk cognizance to our systems," said lab manager David Hayes. "Before this lab was stood up, our systems didn't have a standardized way of performing due diligence on their equipment from a supply chain perspective, things like who's providing subcomponents, who's writing firmware, what software packages are being utilized, and things like that."
Hayes said the idea for the lab started to crystalize in 2019 as a Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) research project to look at what supply chain gaps existed within the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) enterprise and how that compared to others in the Department of Defense and the federal government as a whole.
"We started more with a focus on hardware and software. Now we're moving into the firmware environment," Hayes said. "We want to make sure that we're staying up to date with what everyone else is doing, making sure we're maintaining open lines of communication with other experts in the field, that we are up to date with the latest guidance, and that we are providing an effective and efficient service to our systems."
The way the lab achieves all these goals simultaneously, according to Hayes, is by constantly adapting to and adopting new technologies and best practices to ensure customers get the best possible product.
Hayes said the SCRM team has built close relationships with other labs at Lakehurst, including labs from the Prototype, Manufacturing & Test (PMT), Support Equipment (SE) and Mission Operations & Integration (MO&I) Departments. While the labs use much of the same equipment and machinery, Hayes said the application varies based on the team's needs.
The new lab has also allowed Lakehurst to bring on new personnel, including computer engineer Angelo Cardinale, who started as an intern before joining the lab in March 2023. Cardinale said his current main task is disassembling any hardware equipment they receive to check for questionable parts and pieces, and to develop hardware bills of material using microscopes, circuit card readers and other pieces of specialized equipment. While the lab and Cardinale are still relatively new to Lakehurst, he said he knows the work they do is essential.
"Other nations, other governments, everyone's trying to learn what we're doing, what the government is doing, what the military is doing. And if they have a listening device on some piece of equipment that might be going out onto a ship, then they're going to be able to see what we're doing on those ships and understand some of our plans or tactics or just know how the equipment works," Cardinale said. "And by knowing how it works, they can end up shutting it down and causing real damage to the forces out there."
Along with looking at the physical equipment, personnel like supply chain risk analyst Kristina Harrington do a deeper dive into the vendors of the Navy's systems. By doing a full review of the companies, Harrington said the lab has a better sense of whether the chain is safe and secure before sending the parts to the Sailors. As a newcomer to Lakehurst, Harrington said she enjoys being a small part of a much larger effort.
"It's definitely an honor to be able to do something that's helping the fleet and support them to make sure what they're doing can be safe and secure and not have to worry about that on top of other things," Harrington said.
Hayes said one of the lab’s main focuses now is educating people involved in supply chain risk management on the importance of following protocols to check for risks during a system’s lifecycle.
Having come to Lakehurst as a database developer, Hayes said he is excited to be part of a new endeavor with the SCRM lab.
"I enjoy having been able to get in on the ground floor of a new capability. And I think because there is still room for growth, I think there's opportunity for all of us to express our ideas and see those ideas meaningfully implemented," Hayes said.
Part of that effort includes onboarding new tools and adding automation, which can help to find threats faster. Menzies said it is also important for people to know about the lab's abilities and how it provides support.
"The future for all of these programs is to have this information, feed it into their cybersecurity profile, and give them a better idea of their risks to the system and how to best use their money to address those risks," Menzies said.
Adam Hochron is a communications specialist with Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst, New Jersey.