Issue 11, June 2021

Alumni Spotlight

Cmdr. Kathleen (Katy) Giles
Permanent Military Professor, Systems Engineering & Graduate School of Defense Management
Ph.D. Systems Engineering, NPS ‘18

Cdr. Katy Giles began her career as a P-3C Naval Flight Officer in Brunswick, Maine where she deployed twice in support of multi-national and NATO operations. Following Test Pilot School, she transitioned to the Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer community where she served three tours in developmental and operational flight test. Her flight test work involved P-3C and S-3B mission system upgrades, developmental testing of the P-8A, and operational testing of the RQ-21A. Giles has worked in program management to support avionics upgrades for Navy and Marine Corps aircraft to meet civil airspace requirements, served as the P-3C production officer in charge of phased depot maintenance, and deployed as an Individual Augmentee in support of the NATO International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan. After completing her doctorate in systems engineering at NPS, Giles now serves as a Permanent Military Professor in the Systems Engineering Department and the Graduate School of Defense Management.

Can you tell us a little about your current research interests and projects?

Currently, my research is focused on multi-domain heterogeneous swarm robotics systems research with the Advanced Robotics Systems Engineering Lab (ARSENL). We just returned from Camp Roberts where we demonstrated several new swarm tactics (including a suburban fire-fighting tactic) that involved fixed-wing UAV platforms, quadrotor UAVs, and ground vehicles. We just submitted our final conference paper for the International Conference on Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which takes place this month. I am also working on an aviation circadian entrainment human subjects research study for USMC Aviation with Dr. Shattuck’s Crew Endurance team that is looking to improve current practices for shifting aviators from a day flight schedule to a night flight schedule. This work builds on the prior successful work the Crew Endurance Team accomplished to develop much-needed circadian-based watchbills for the Surface Warfare community. Lastly, I’m supporting Dr. Giammarco’s Monterey Phoenix Virtual Internship Program which takes place over the summer. Developed here at NPS, Monterey Phoenix is a lightweight formal approach and user-friendly interactive tool for modeling behavior of complex systems.

What are you looking forward to the most with a return to in-person learning?

I’m looking forward to interacting with the students in person. I think we are all suffering from “Zoom fatigue” and I’ve found virtual learning to be subject to distractions. 

You and your husband are both Foundation club members. What have you found to be the benefits of participation, and why should students join?

The clubs, volunteer opportunities, and coffee cohorts are all highlights. The Foundation provides tremendous support to the clubs. For example, the cycling club has a stable of bicycles available to borrow for members who are interested in getting involved with cycling but perhaps need to borrow a bike. The Foundation has supported annual cycling club rides and trips to San Francisco, Paso Robles, and Lake Tahoe. We have also hiked Mt. Whitney with the Outdoors Club. Volunteer opportunities at Big Sur Marathon, Car Week, and other local events are a great way to get involved in the community.

What one thing would you recommend to all students during their time here in Monterey? 

Get outside! Whether it is road cycling, mountain biking, hiking, trail running, beachcombing, surfing, open water swimming — there is something for everyone here.

Outdoor activities in Monterey are fantastic!

We've got a club for that!

Click to Learn More about NPS Foundation Clubs.

Clubs are open to students, alumni, faculty, community supporters, and families!


Professor Britta Hale
Assistant Professor Computer Science

Britta Hale headshot

Dr. Britta Hale is a cryptographer and Assistant Professor in Computer Science at NPS. Her research expertise is in both the design and analysis of cryptographic protocols, as well as cryptographic applications to UxS, e-voting, and blockchain. Hale holds a doctorate from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and a Master of Science in the Mathematics of Cryptography and Communications from Royal Holloway, University of London. She is an active member of the Message Layer Security working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force working on the standardization of group key exchange under maximal security guarantees and a member of the International Association for Cryptologic Research.  Hale has recently developed a course on Advocating Technological Change, to run in the Winter ’22 quarter.

Can you tell us a little about your current research interests and projects?

Cryptographic protocols, self-healing and post-quantum security, represent the current core of my research vectors. There is a significant degree of use-case customization available with cryptographic protocols – a fact that has led the National Institute of Standards and Technology to the conscious decision of not standardizing any one option out of an effort to encourage innovation. Leaning into Project OVERMATCH, I am looking at cryptographic protocol options and customization for autonomous vehicles operating in comms-restricted and contested environments.

It may seem logical that security would be lessened under these restrictions, but modern cryptographic protocols can actually improve security over those used in legacy systems despite the restrictions. They can even offer self-healing under adversarial presence. Imagine being notified automatically and instantaneously of a cyber-attack or cryptographic key leakage, with exact parameters on the amount of data affected – right down to the precise text words and data values the adversary has obtained. That scenario is not fiction but now a very real option, the design and analysis of which I am preparing to go to publication with.

Quantum computers are currently being designed and, when realized, will destabilize many existing cryptographic algorithms. A simple assessment of data sensitivity lifetime indicates that if a quantum computer becomes a reality at any point in the next 30 years, we must have post-Quantum alternatives in use now. We are already at, and potentially past, the deadline for starting a transition to post-Quantum cryptography. There is no margin for apathy in the quantum domain. Ergo, my research is already driving towards security in that future.

In light of the recent cyberattack on the U.S. fuel pipeline, what changes and advances in technology need to happen?  

Having previously worked in industry on a project that assessed security response for the petroleum infrastructure throughout Europe, this attack came as no surprise. It seems cliché, but we knew this was coming. There is a large body of published research that points to this very security challenge and potential defenses.

Cybersecurity vulnerabilities and attacks are like fault line stress and earthquakes: the absence of noticeable cyber-attacks does not imply a secure system. In fact, it may imply that security vulnerabilities are accumulating and a cyber-attack “Big One” is coming, with catastrophic consequences. As the security of the system degrades over time against increases in technological (and adversarial) capabilities, security defenses must be re-analyzed and adapted. This does not simply imply software updates, but also re-evaluation of network design, hardware, and cryptographic algorithms and protocols to best suit the environment and threat.

Security analyses and design agility build robustness. Naturally, achieving this also implies agility in acquisitions and how contracts accommodate future analyses and adaptation. When we consider the monetary and potential physical consequences of a cyber-attack, such a priori analysis and preemptive planning is a minor investment. As in the current fuel pipeline ransomware cyber-attack, it is reasonable to expect that we will increasingly see large-scale offensive use of cryptography as well as new applications of it.  

Another key advance is better involvement for system customers. Better involvement implies facing potential vulnerabilities head-on and participating in decisions on how to solidify the security posture. Security customization is like vehicle customization, and a vendor advertising satisfaction of general security criteria is not unlike one advertising satisfaction of general vehicle criteria. “Four wheels and an engine” hardly provides insight on seating capacity or off-road capabilities. In contrast, involvement in security choices or final product customization transforms the system customer’s defensive capabilities by targeting actual needs.

There are many advances in technology that could help protect against these types of cyber-attacks and those that are coming. Those studying security now are the real defense perimeter for our developing future, and this includes those in non-cyber fields who are broadening their understanding on the side. Fundamentally, by choosing to learn about cyberspace defense, these individuals are building out the capability for being involved in these critical decisions.

You get a lot of (virtual) facetime with NPS students.  How would you describe the collective student body?

Individuals are the real face of the student body, so I will mention a couple illustrative examples among the current graduates.

Persistence, positivity, and determination are characteristics that describe the approach to thesis work of one of my students, Lt. Fritz Hain. The student cohorts that started thesis work in 2020 had an unanticipated challenge before them, and there are many now nearing graduation who never had the opportunity to sit down with their advisors and diagram out research on a whiteboard, nor benefited from in-person comradery under long thesis-writing hours. Hain’s positivity, regular updates, and persistent curiosity in experimentation redefined the year and made that challenge look easy.

Few have studied cryptography when they take my Cryptographic Protocol Design and Attacks course. I am always impressed by students who have little background but a strong curiosity in the subject and interest in trying new ideas. Gunnery Sgt. John Lytle was one such student who, following the course, also chose a thesis topic in efficiency testing for post-Quantum cryptographic digital signatures and went on to receive an Outstanding Thesis Award and brief his results to the Principle Cyber Advisor to the Secretary of the Navy.

What one thing would you recommend to all students during their time here in Monterey? 

You are surrounded by an armada of expertise - seize the opportunity! There are researchers from an enormous variety of disciplines at NPS, and you can tap that insight for brainstorming and “big idea” discussions. Knock on doors, make phone and Teams calls, and request a random coffee or lunch break with an expert. Do this both inside your area of study and outside of it as well. This is the hidden little secret of NPS: Experts from all disciplines are unimaginably happy to take time out of their intense schedules to have random “big idea” and future-leaning discussions with students. You may well find that discussion over a coffee provides inconceivable insight and ideas in areas you never knew about, transforming the value you bring with you moving forward.

Kahra Kelty headshot

Lt. Kahra Kelty
Student, U.S. Navy 

Lt. Kahra Kelty joined the Navy in 2015, after her graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. While at the Academy, she played Division I soccer through all four years. She served four years as a Surface Warfare Officer before moving to Engineering Duty Officer. Her first tour as a SWO was on USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) in Yokosuka, Japan. While aboard, she worked in the Engineering Department as both the repair officer and the auxiliaries officer. She then moved to San Diego and served onboard USS America (LHA 6) as the fire control officer. After her last ship duty, Kelty moved to Panama City Beach, Florida to attend the Joint Diving Officer course at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center. In 2018, her background as a naval officer and soccer player well-qualified her to join the most elite military soccer players in the world as she played for Team USA at the Conseil International du Sport Militaire World Military Women’s Football Championship. She is currently a year into her studies at NPS in the mechanical engineering program and has recently started research using the Xerox 3D printer

What are some highlights from your time at NPS?

It has been a weird year due to COVID, but I am lucky to say that it has definitely been a fruitful year regardless. Monterey is a great place to live because of all the great hikes in the area. My favorite hike is either Garland Ranch or the Soberanes Canyon Trail. I have also visited Yosemite while living in Monterey. While in Yosemite, I rock climbed and hiked A LOT and could not get enough of the amazing views. I can’t wait to go back! I think this year has been a time for me to really invest in appreciating the outdoors since restaurants and social gatherings have been put to a temporary halt.

Why did you initially decide to join the military?

I initially joined because I knew that the military wouldn’t be the typical 9-5 job and it would provide me unique experiences and challenges. I have to say, my six years in the Navy have been very fulfilling. I lived abroad, had responsibility of safely navigating a warship throughout the South China Sea, played soccer for the U.S. Armed Forces team on an international platform, and attended Dive School. And now, I am at NPS and am looking forward to what's next.

What are some of the most significant moments in your military career thus far?

I would have to say the most significant moments in my military career are graduating from Dive School and having my sister pin me at the graduation. Also, earning my SWO pin was a significant day for me. It is an awesome feeling realizing how much you actually learned after just being onboard for a little over a year and there is still so much more to learn and do. 

What goals or aspirations do you have for a future career?

Now that I am EDO, I am looking forward to my qualification tour and getting back to the fleet. I am also very excited for the dive projects that EDO-Divers have the opportunity to do. Currently, EDO-Divers are involved in developing and testing new diver heads-up displays with astronauts at NASA. Also, EDO Divers are developing and executing wartime afloat salvage and ship repair tactics for platforms. Later this month, EDO Divers will participate in wartime damage assessment and repair techniques training aboard ex-USS Bonhomme Richard under tow in the Gulf of Mexico.

Connect with us!

Follow us on Twitter   Connect with us on Facebook  Follow us on LinkedIn   Follow us on Instagram   

Physical Address: 283 Cottage Way Monterey, CA 93943 - Mailing Address: PO Box 8626 Monterey, CA 93943