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DoD Has an New Information Systems Strategy

We have now the “DoD IT Enterprise Strategy and Roadmap” (ITESR_6SEP11). The DoD Deputy Secretary and the Chief Information Officer signed it. This makes the document the highest-level statement of IT objectives in over two decades. The new direction calls for an overhaul of policies that guide DoD information systems. Implementation becomes a challenge in an era as funding for new systems development declines.

The following illustrates some of the issues that require the reorientation of how DoD manages information technologies:

1. Strategy: DoD personnel will have seamless access to all information, enabling the creation and sharing of information. Access will be through a variety of technologies, including special purpose mobile devices.
Challenge: DoD personnel uses computing services in 150 countries, 6,000 locations and in over 600,000 buildings. This diversity calls for standardization of formats for ten thousands of programs, which requires a complete change in the way DoD systems are configured.

2. Strategy: Commanders will have access to information available from all DoD resources, enabling improved command and control, increasing speed of action and enhancing the ability to coordinate across organizational boundaries or with mission partners.
Challenge: Over 15,000 uncoordinated networks do not offers availability and latency that is essential for real-time coordination of diverse sources of information.  Integration of all networks under centrally controlled network management centers becomes the key requirement for further progress. Requires a complete reconfiguration of the GIG.

3. Strategy: Individual service members and government civilians will be offered a standard IT user experience, enabling them to do their jobs and providing them with the same look, feel, and access to information on re-assignment, mobilization, or deployment. Minimum re-training will be necessary since the output formats, vocabulary and menu options must be identical regardless of the technology used.
Challenge: DoD systems depend on over seven million devices for input and for display of information. Presently there are thousands of unique and incompatible formats for the supporting user feedback to automated systems. The format incompatibilities requires the replacement of the existing interfaces by means of a standard virtual desktop, which recognizes the differences in training and in literacy levels.

4. Strategy: Common identity management, authorization, and authentication schemes grants access to the networks based on a user’s credentials as well as on physical circumstances.
Challenge: This calls for the adoption of universal network authorizations for granting access privileges. This requires a revision of how access permissions that are issued to over 70,000 servers. The workflow between the existing personnel systems and the access authorization authorities in human resources systems will require overhauling how access privileges are issued or revoked.

5. Strategy: Common DoD-wide services, applications as well as programming tools will be usable across the entire DoD thereby minimizing duplicate efforts, reducing the fragmentation of programs and reducing the need for retraining when developers are reassigned or redeployed.
Challenge: This policy cannot be executed without revising the organizational and funding structures in place. Standardization of applications and of software tools necessitates discarding much of the code that is already in place, or temporarily storing it as virtualized legacy codes. Reducing data fragmentation requires a full implementation of the DoD data directory.

6. Strategy: Streamlined IT acquisition processes to deliver rapid fielding of capabilities, inclusive of enterprise-wide certification and accreditation of new services and applications.
Challenge Presently there are over 10,000 operational systems in place, controlled by hundreds of acquisition personnel and involving thousands of contractors. There are 79 major projects (with current spending of $12.3 billion) that have been ongoing for close to a decade. These projects have proprietary technologies deeply ingrained through long-term contract commitments.  Disentangling DoD from several billions worth of non-interoperable software requires Congressional approval.

7. Strategy: Consolidated operations centers provide pooled computing resources and bandwidth on demand. Standardized data centers must offer access and resources by using service level agreements, with prices that are comparable with commercial practices. Standard applications should be easily relocated across a range of competitive offerings without cost penalty.
Challenge: The existing number of data centers, estimated at over 770, represents a major challenge without major changes in the software currently occupies over 65,000 servers. Whether this can be accomplished by shifting the workload to commercial firms, but under DoD control, would require making tradeoffs between costs and security assurance.

In summary, the redesign of operational systems into a standard environment is unlikely to be implemented on a 2011-2016 schedule unless DoD considers radically new ways of how to achieve the stated objectives.

Over 50% of IT spending is in the infrastructure, not in functional applications. The OSD CIO has a clear authority to start directing the reshaping of the organizations of the infrastructure. Consequently, the strategic objectives can be largely achieved, but only with major changes in the authority for the execution of the proposed plan. It remains to be seen whether the ambitious OSD strategies will meet the challenge of the new cyber operations.

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