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CHIPS Articles: Interview with Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Nally

Interview with Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Nally
Director for C4, Deputy Commanding General, Marine Forces Cyber Command and DON Deputy CIO (Marine Corps)
By CHIPS Magazine - July-September 2011
Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Nally, as the Director for C4, Deputy Commanding General for MARFORCYBER and the DDCIO for the U.S. Marine Corps, leads many of the IT and cyber efficiency efforts for the Marine Corps. CHIPS asked the general to discuss these efforts in June.

CHIPS: The DON CIO Terry Halvorson said at the DON IT Conference in January that he is going to look at information technology policy to make sure it is viable and enforceable, and that he will be looking at the second, third and fourth order effects of policy decisions. Are there any specific policies that the Marine Corps is looking at in this regard since Marine forces are expeditionary by nature?

Nally: We work closely with the Department of the Navy and Terry Halvorsen's office. However, first and foremost, what I always concentrate on is our workforce (Marines, GS (civil service personnel) and contractors) and then our network, the MCEN, the Marine Corps Enterprise Network; we have to meet the intent of my Commandant's planning guidance.

This is my first tour of duty in D.C., in 31 years. I work backwards from the forward operating bases in Afghanistan back to the Pentagon to see if whatever we are going to put into the network, can be put into the network seamlessly. This helps create a knowledge-based force that makes good, knowledgeable decisions in a timely manner that meet the commander's requirements.

I always concentrate on [the question], 'Is it going to take away the effectiveness of our fighting forces?' Just because it is an efficiency, doesn't necessarily mean it is the right thing to do if it is going to degrade our combat effectiveness.

I brag about this, but we are the only service that can actually touch our individual computers out in Afghanistan from our Marine Corps Network Operations and Security Center in Quantico, Va. We do that for security reasons. We are pretty proud of that and that's another concern that I keep in the back of my mind. I do not want to lose that ability.

CHIPS: The Marine Corps was named the lead for assessing and buying enterprise hardware and software solutions for making the right investment choices for the DON. The lead integrator is Marine Corps Systems Command, but will you have a role to play in the assessment?

Nally: We offered that up to them [Office of the Chief of Naval Operations]. The one for the hardware is called MCHS, Marine Corps Common Hardware Suite, and the one for software is called the Marine Corps Software Enterprise License Management System (MCSELMS).

We told the N2/N6 (Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance), the Department of the Navy Deputy CIO, 'We are willing to help you create these kinds of programs for the Department of the Navy and the OPNAV.' Terry's office said, 'Great.' So between MARCORSYSCOM, my office, Terry's office and the N2/N6 office, we can help create a Department of the Navy program for each one of those efforts.

The programs are used for non-NMCI (Navy Marine Corps Intranet) hardware and software. Since we are still under HP's network for NMCI, for anything NMCI related we go through HP for hardware and software pieces.

Currently under the Common Hardware Suite program, those computers that are not NMCI related, not tied to that network, that is how we buy those computers. If my computer on my desk breaks, HPES (Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Services) replaces that. We end up paying for it, of course, but HP handles that. If it is a computer that we have to put in Afghanistan, the Marine Corps solely takes care of that transaction. It is not easy to understand, but I deal with it all of the time.

With MARCORSYSCOM and the Department of the Navy, my role as the CIO for the Marine Corps is defining and developing appropriate terms and conditions for the hardware and software because it will be connected to the Marine Corps Enterprise Network. In my role as the DAA (Designated Accrediting/Approval Authority) for the Marine Corps, I want to make sure that I can assure my boss, the Commandant, that our hardware and software share common certification and accreditation. And in my role as the Deputy Commander for the Marine Forces Cyber Command, that also plays into the role in terms of cybersecurity and making sure that what we are hooking up to the network, we are going to be able to provide, operate and defend the network.

CHIPS: Will these new licensing agreements make it easier for the Navy and Marine Corps to interoperate? For example, I attended the Bold Alligator exercise in December 2010 and the IT operators told me that the communications equipment between the Navy and Marine Corps did not always interoperate well.

Nally: The ships don't always upgrade their IT equipment on a regular basis like we do. For example, on the ship [maintenance] cycles they don't necessarily upgrade their IT equipment for 18 to 24 months until it [the ship] comes back into port for reset and refurbish. On the other hand, the Marine expeditionary units are deploying seven, eight, nine months at a time, coming back, and then one of the MEUs refits and goes out again.

We have the ability to upgrade our IT at a lot faster rate than they [fleet] do. When we go aboard ship, we have certain spaces dedicated to the Marines, and we bring our own IT, so we do our best to bring the latest and greatest IT aboard ship. In conjunction with OPNAV, we have stood up a C4 amphib working group, to better improve the C4 aboard the ships for the Navy and the Marine Corps. We are working closely with the N2/N6 on that as well.

CHIPS: IT efficiencies and data center/server consolidation are big news topics right now, and a mandate per the Under Secretary's "DON IT/Cyberspace Effiency Initiatives and Realignment" memo. What progress has the Marine Corps made?

Nally: We have a Marine Corps Enterprise IT Services Center in Kansas City, Mo., that will be initially operationally capable 6 July. That is the centerpiece of the Marine Corps data center service consolidation strategy, and it will provide world-class capability for hosting Marine Corps critical applications and systems, as well as data assets. We have already established some guidelines for later this year; of the 162 programs in the Marine Corps that we are going to start migrating, some of those, around 50, [will migrate] to the MCEITS (Marine Corps Enterprise IT Services) program. Near-term, MCEITS is going to serve as a COOP (continuity of operations) site, and it will serve as part of our cloud computing efforts. It is a really nice facility, and we are really excited about it.

I have talked with Terry Halvorsen, and we have offered up pieces of the building there, so the Navy can move into that facility, the data center, so they can potentially do some consolidation as well.

CHIPS: Naval leadership has said that the department needs to stop building one-of-a-kind systems and figure out how to reuse data because building and maintaining new systems is just unsustainable. Do you have a strategy to make data more accessible and ideas on how to take advantage of the systems that are already in place? Will MCEITS help you make data more accessible?

Nally: Yes, so we can share authoritative data at an easier rate. Our objective is to reduce the number of data dependencies between systems. We created an environment where the systems go to the authoritative source for the data they need. In addition to that, whatever we do with MCEITS out in Kansas City, Mo., we need to make sure that we can take pieces of that and deploy it for our operating forces, either aboard ship or on shore, or wherever they go, and that's what we are going to be able to do with that. It [the capability] is not going to be just in Kansas City, to reduce latency for reachback we are going to take pieces of it and be able to deploy it.

What we have done, I call it regionalization. Our MCNOSC (Marine Corps Network Operations and Security Command), located in Quantico, Va., can reach out and touch any computer in the entire network. We are working closely with HPES moving toward a government-owned, government-operated NIPRNET. We do own and operate our own SIPRNET, and we have been doing that for several years. We [also] own and operate our own tactical and operational networks.

We are expeditionary in nature, and we are, as the Commandant says, a middleweight fighting force, so we are strong enough and powerful enough to affect combat operations when we get there, and we are also strong enough to sustain our operations. We need to be able to be responsive, scalable, flexible and available 24/7 from anywhere and anytime; we need that as part of our networks. We fight with our networks, and we need that flexibility, scalability and responsiveness with our networks as well.

CHIPS: You said at the DON IT Conference that the "best IT is a well-trained Marine." What do you mean by that?

Nally: That's a quote by my predecessor, the gentleman I took over from, Maj. Gen. (George J.) Allen. It stands true, and it's timeless with respect to IT. Foundationally, the training and education is a critical link in making our Marines intellectually smart enough to operate the equipment. You can have what someone says is the best IT, and it is going to solve solutions A through Z, but if I don't have the Marines qualified to operate the IT, the IT is useless.

Our Marine Corps Communication-Electronics School, headquartered in Twentynine Palms, Calif., teaches all of the entry-level through career-level enlisted courses in communications, cyber and maintenance of the equipment for all of our enlisted, and then our officers are taught in Quantico, Va. There are some other satellite schools spread throughout the United States.

We have partnered with industry, numerous companies, and they have become satellite academies, where entry level Marines get commercial certifications, for example, A+, Net+, Security+, and CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional). We train them in CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) levels one through four. We train them in Microsoft certifications, Cisco certifications and storage application certifications. We partner with industry and academia so we get the really, really good well-trained Marine that can go out there and operate the equipment.

We are never complacent either, so if things change, we get the changes through industry, and we get the changes from our operating forces. They give us feedback and after action reports about how we can potentially make some better changes to the way we operate the equipment. We feed that back to the schoolhouse where it teaches the Marines to be able to operate it.

CHIPS: At Sea Air Space in April, Assistant Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford told the audience that the Marine Corps has three challenges in purchasing new equipment: reducing weight and cost and increasing energy efficiency. How does that affect IT planning and purchases and existing equipment?

Nally: In terms of strategic planning, the Marine Corps stood up the Expeditionary Energy Office that works directly for the Commandant, and they've made really significant inroads. I will speak just for the IT piece of it to reduce weight, cost and increase energy efficiency. Since 9/11, Marine Corps IT requirements have increased by 700 percent. The weight of the IT because of the increase has increased 400 percent, and the battery requirements for that have increased 1,294 percent because Marines are operating in distributed ops, which means that there are smaller units of Marines operating in different locations spread out [around the world].

Because we are fighting a counterinsurgency operation, and we are looking for terrorists and bad guys, the requirement is that you have to be further distributed instead of in one consolidated mass. It has obviously increased IT requirements.

CHIPS: At the conference, you mentioned increasing or maximizing bandwidth for expeditionary forces, can you discuss what has been done?

Nally: The Marine Corps has recognized the need to provide higher bandwidth to our expeditionary forces but also to use this bandwidth more efficiently. In order to accomplish this we have acquired portable commercial satellite bandwidth, augmenting military satellite bandwidth, providing bandwidth when and where needed.

Upgrading Marine Corps SATCOM terminals to take advantage of the most efficient modes of operation has allowed us to exploit this bandwidth more efficiently. Utilizing time division multiple access (TDMA) technologies have enabled the implementation of mesh communication architectures [minimizes the total amount of power consumed in communications] allowing operators to share the finite bandwidth resources. We strive to ensure Marine Corps communications are secure, reliable and agile to meet the needs of our operating forces.

CHIPS: Do you have anything else to add?

Nally: We are actively engaged in DoD and DON IT efficiency initiatives. As we are working with DoD and [the] DON, we will continue to execute our efforts that align with their goals and objectives — many of which were initiated well before IT efficiencies began — adjusting as we go based on higher headquarters direction, and as DoD and DON enterprise solutions become available and are found to be acceptable both operationally and from a cost perspective.

For more information about HQMC C4, go to

Marine Corps Information Technology Efficiencies
Brig. Gen. Nally issued a message April 13, 2011, titled, "Marine Corps Information Technology Efficiencies," which identifies savings and cost opportunities related to Information Management (IM), IT/Cyberspace, and Information Resources Management (IRM).

In the message, the general discusses the power of consolidation in select areas and has actively pursued Marine Corps-wide enterprise solutions. The Marine Corps will participate in the DON CIO focus area IPTs and DoD efficiency activities to continue refining efforts and develop new courses of action aligned with the Secretary of the Navy's goals and objectives.

The Marine Corps Enterprise Information Technology Services (MCEITS) program and IT service regionalization programs are Marine Corps enterprise solutions that will consolidate enterprise IT efforts and contribute to the DON efficiency effort. These two initiatives will meet the primary objectives of the federal data center consolidation initiative, DoD data center consolidation intent, and the DON CIO data center consolidation focus area IPT.

The Marine Corps Common Hardware Suite (MCHS) and Marine Corps Software Enterprise License Management System (MCSELMS) initiatives institutionalize commodity buying and management of software licenses at the enterprise level to achieve economies of scale pricing and cost saving/avoidance. Both initiatives meet the primary objectives of the DON CIO focus area IPT for Enterprise Software Licensing (ESL)/hardware and software commodity purchases/IT services and align with DoD efforts.

The Marine Corps rationalized its application portfolio several years ago, reducing down to the current levels of applications and systems registered in the DoD IT Portfolio Repository (DITPR) and the DON Application and Database Management System (DADMS).

Other efforts are discussed in the message, to access go to:

Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Nally
Director for Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4), Deputy Commanding General for Marine Forces Cyber Command and the Department of the Navy Deputy Chief Information Officer for the United States Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Nally, and from the office of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Dominance, director of communications, networks and CIO division (N2/N6F1) and deputy DDCIO (Navy) Janice Haith, discuss Navy and Marine Corps IT efficiency efforts at the DON IT Conference in Virginia Beach, Va., in May.
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