Dave Bennett, the Defense Information Systems Agency’s chief information officer and director for Enterprise Information Services, opened FedScoop’s “Lowering the Cost of Government with Information Technology (IT) Summit,” held August 21 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., with his perspectives on IT consolidation. The event, which brought together subject matter experts from the public and private sectors, was focused on how agencies can leverage emerging technologies to create a more cost-effective and smarter government.
Bennett opened the discussion with a focus on infrastructure and capacity services contracts. Capacity services contracts provide scalable capability on demand, he said. The vendor owns and maintains equipment that readily scales up or down to meet the government’s requirements, and pricing is done on a utility basis or using a tiered structure.
Bennett explained that these types of contracts save the government from buying and sustaining equipment, allow the government to pay for only what it needs, and enable the government to leverage technology faster.
“With capacity services [contracts] we have vendors online to provide platforms for our computing environment and we can request ‘x’ number more boxes as the demand increases and [the vendors] have a timeframe in which to deliver,” said Bennett.
“Throughout the course of a contract I’m able to ebb and flow and have a built-in tech refresh,” he said. “This helps me support users by quickly and consistently bringing in new capabilities as technology evolves in a cost-effective way.”
Bennett also emphasized the need to draw down the amount of resources that have been invested in infrastructure, referencing the 2010 Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI), which called for a reduction in the number of DoD data centers.
DISA closed three Defense Enterprise Computing Centers (DECCs) in the past year, he said. In May, the DECC in Huntsville, Alabama, closed, a move which will save an estimated $3.2 million per year. Earlier in the year, the agency closed data center operations in Dayton, Ohio and Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
Bennett also pointed out that remaining computing centers and infrastructure must be updated and enhanced to meet the reliability and availability requirements of the department.
“We are starting to focus and drive down more capabilities and end users into a more centralized set of facilities that support the growing demand. It’s inherent upon us to ensure that the infrastructure is as solid and reliable as can be so that the end user can get the performance expected,” said Bennett.
Savings can also be found in end user capabilities, especially enterprise services, he said.
“Enterprise services are a cost-effective, inexpensive way to deliver capability [globally],” said Bennett, citing DoD Enterprise Email (DEE), which has approximately 1.6 million users, as a good example.
“[DEE] has allowed the Army to shut down their entire set of locally owned and operated email exchange systems, which offers software savings. But more importantly it’s an opportunity to reinvest savings and reallocate resources to other priorities.”
Similarly, the department’s enterprise collaboration capability has offered financial savings, as well as significant operational benefits.
“Not only do you gain the savings but everyone in DoD is able to come together and meet within one collaboration environment,” said Bennett. Prior to the availability of this enterprise service, every component was handling its own collaboration services locally.
According to Bennett, the enterprise collaboration service offering changed the military’s business operations. Today, the service is an integral component of the operational environment that the warfighter uses to conduct day-to-day operations.
Standard solutions can also generate savings and deliver capabilities without having to provide “one-off” scenarios that are costly to develop and sustain, said Bennett.
Bennett suggested that organizations look to adapt their business processes to work within standard technology instead of bending solutions to fit their processes, which DISA is doing by using commercial-off-the-shelf solutions.
“Take it out of the box as is and then change your business processes to leverage whatever the capability is coming out of the box,” said Bennett. “That step alone saves huge amounts of time and energy.”
Bennett said that DISA is also looking at leveraging commercial products that offer integrated capabilities “with symbiotic relationships that build on top of each other and allow us to bring in new capabilities and take out old features that are expensive and costly to maintain.” He said integrated capabilities will prove useful as the agency pursues unified capability and virtual desktop solutions.