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DoD Advances Information Technology to Lower Costs

By Cheryl PellerinDoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 2014 – The Defense Department is pushing forward on information technology such as cloud computing, smartphones and apps, the Joint Information Environment, and data access to improve the mission and reduce costs, the Pentagon’s acting chief information officer said yesterday.

Terry Halvorsen gave a keynote speech here at FedTalks, an annual gathering of leaders in the technology and government IT communities nationwide.

Speaking on culture and technology change, the acting CIO told a packed auditorium that for those in the IT business, the biggest change is not technical, but cultural.

“How do you get people to start thinking differently about IT, which means thinking differently about data, the ways you do business, the processes that have to [change], and things that might have to change in your personal environment or your company climate?” he asked.

New DoD Cloud Policy

In about two weeks, Halvorsen said, DoD plans to release a new policy on cloud computing.

“When I say ‘the cloud,’ I really [mean] distributed data solutions,” he said, “which are a better answer for us in terms of solving our business problems, lowering cost and, if not improving, keeping security at least at the same level and then moving it forward.”

Without taking the Defense Information Systems Agency totally out of the policy, the CIO added, the new policy will let the military departments and larger agencies procure cloud services through their own contract offices.

“That’s simply because we can go faster. … We’ve got to go faster, and that just means I’ve got to increase the number of people who can do the contracting, so we’re going to do that,” Halvorsen said.

A Better Job With Dollars

“We are in a fiscal crisis,” he added. “We’ve got to figure out how to do better with all of our dollars. I think the cloud [will help].”

Normally, DISA provides, operates and assures command and control and information-sharing capabilities and a globally accessible enterprise information infrastructure in direct support to joint warfighters, national-level leaders, and other mission and coalition partners across the spectrum of military operations.

Halvorsen said that, as DoD IT goes more commercial, the agency will have a role in making sure the department meets all security requirements in the cloud policy and implementation.

“We’ve spent a lot of time over the last 90 days figuring out what we need from a security standpoint, for what levels of data,” the CIO explained, “working in many cases not just internally, but with some of the companies who will provide these services. That’s the technical piece.”

Changing the Way People Think

The second piece, he said, involves changing the way people think.

“In my business there are people who believe their data needs to be right on the table next to them so they can touch it, see it and watch their servers blink,” Halvorsen quipped. “We can’t operate that way anymore.”

Handling data this way is inefficient, costly and ultimately less secure, he said, “so we’ve got to have a discussion now with owners of that data about why it’s good to let go.”

The CIO and his team also are moving forward on what they call mobility, or making smartphones available to the Defense Department’s global workforce.

The Cloud Enables Mobility

“We’ve got to think about mobility too, and I think the cloud enables us from a mobility standpoint,” the CIO said. “I could do a lot more if that data’s sitting in a distributed environment that is more accessible to our employee set or other users of our data.”

Another culture change needed on the business side at DoD involves customers, he said.

“Many of the customers who need to use our data — guess what? They’re not in DoD,” Halvorsen added. “This is particularly true in a couple of what I call our key business areas.”

With a $235 billion investment in health care, DoD is in the medical business, he said, and serving all those clients is challenging, because many of the medical transactions are not internal to the DoD network structure — they’re out in the business world, and they involve doctors, medical insurance companies, private laboratories and others.

The commercial entities “have to be able to play too,” the CIO said, “and just because somebody else may be touching the data, that has not limited our responsibility to make sure that data’s secure and follows all the rules.”

Breakthrough on Smartphones

Halvorsen held up his BlackBerry smartphone.

“We’re just about ready to tell everybody they can have one of these. This is still a BlackBerry, still a government-provided device, but now I have personal space on this. I actually have my personal email and personal apps,” he told the audience. “That is a big breakthrough for us.”

Integrating a business device with a personal space is an admission, the CIO said, “that our workforce, civilian and military –particularly the younger part of our workforce — is demanding different things from their lives, different experiences, and we’ve got to accommodate that somewhat.”

The department puts mission and security first, but those considerations are not incompatible with personal life, Halvorsen said.

“We’ve got that now,” he added. “That’s not a technology leap. That was a cultural leap to say, ‘Yeah, you can do this. It works, and the risk is OK.’”

DoD also is making smartphone apps more available, he said, and will release a new secure mobile phone that is in big demand by combatant commanders. “So that’s another big breakthrough,” he added.

Joint Information Environment

Halvorsen said the department’s Joint Information Environment is a concept, rather than a thing. The first piece, called the Joint Regional Security Stacks, enables DoD to get to a more coherent and singular security architecture, he said.

“But what it really does when we’re done, coupled with the software we’re going to put with it, is let all the services, U.S. Cyber Command, DISA — all the people who need to see the network — it will let them see the entire picture better. And I really do mean everybody,” Halvorsen said.

It was a little bit of a change that the CIO and his team put in the software, he explained, so that everybody will be able to see the data.

Joint Regional Security Stacks

“Some restrictions will exist on who can act on that data,” he added, “but the situational awareness ought to be out there for everybody to see. That’s the most powerful piece that will happen as we field the Joint Regional Security Stacks.”

The first stacks were initialized in September at Joint Base San Antonio, Halvorsen said. The goal is to have all stacks, both in the continental United States and elsewhere, in place by the end of 2016, to field the new software by the end of 2016, and to have the system operational in the first part of 2017.

“That’s ambitious,” Halvorsen said. “I’m not going to try to fool anybody. The hardest part I’m working with right now is how to get those costs within the amount of money we have.”

His team is making great progress, he said.