On Aug. 18, the Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen launched a valiant new plan for DoD IT modernization priorities that is designed to manage the fast-paced information technology environment and capture the latest IT innovations that offer previously unimagined opportunities for the warfighter.
Halvorsen writes in the DoD Information Technology Environment Way Forward to Tomorrow’s Strategic Landscape that the DoD’s choice of cyber and IT capabilities lay the foundation for success — from the battlefield, to business and beyond. The new strategy will optimize the DoD IT infrastructure by focusing on foundational IT changes that will advance capabilities, enhance the cybersecurity posture, and improve information sharing with mission partners. Essentially, the department’s IT environment must be innovative, collaborative, effective, efficient and capable to support defensive and offensive operations, he writes.
The unnecessary complexity of today’s DoD network and computing environment limits visibility and impedes the capability to securely share information and globally execute joint operations, according to the strategy. As the department looks to the future, several key strategic areas of focus will ensure the DoD IT environment will be built to meet the missions of today and support the strategic direction of tomorrow. They include:
. Executing capability initiatives toward the Joint Information Environment vision.
. Improving partnerships with mission partners and industry.
. Ensuring successful mission execution in the face of a persistent cyber threat.
. Providing a cloud computing environment.
. Optimizing DoD’s data center infrastructure.
. Exploiting the power of trusted information sharing.
. Providing a resilient communications and network infrastructure.
. Improving transparency of DoD IT investments.
Agility, resilience and effectiveness have long been the characteristics of warfighters at the tip of the spear. As DoD faces a future where the battlespace increasingly includes IT/cyber, its IT/cyber infrastructure, investments and capabilities should have the same characteristics, the document states.
Department of Defense Chief Information Officer Responsibilities
The DoD CIO is the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense for IT, cybersecurity; communications; positioning, navigation and timing; spectrum management; senior leadership capabilities; nuclear command, control and communications matters; and the Joint Information Environment (JIE). These latter responsibilities are clearly unique to the Department, and the imperative of the DoD CIO is to ensure that the department has the information and communications capabilities needed to support the broad set of department missions. IT is a critical component of warfighting.
The DoD IT and cyber team includes the key IT and cyber leaders from all of the Military
Services, U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). Together, these organizations are securing Defense Department networks and systems, and managing the cyber threat from the sustaining base infrastructure to deployed users.
DISA serves as the operational arm for the department’s centralized IT environment with DoD CIO oversight. DISA is a DoD combatant support agency that provides IT and communications support to national leaders, the military services, the Combatant Commands, and more. It is comprised of more than 6,000 civilians and about 1,500 military officers and enlisted personnel, and approximately 7,500 defense contractors. DISA has a total budget of $9.4 billion out of a total DoD IT budget in fiscal year 2015 of approximately $36 billion, the document states.
Defense IT Environment – Legacy Built and Complex — the Scale is Enormous
Aggressive steps are needed to tackle the challenges within the DoD’s immense IT infrastructure, according to Halvorsen. If the DoD were a corporation, it would be at the top of the Fortune 100 — no organization has a broader mission or scope. Comprised of 1.3 million military personnel on active duty, and 742,000 civilian personnel — plus 826,000 who serve in the National Guard and Reserve forces — DoD is one of the nation’s largest employers.
The Defense Department manages an inventory of installations and facilities, and its physical plant is vast by any standard, comprising more than several hundred thousand individual buildings and structures located at more than 5,000 different locations or sites. When all sites are added together, the department utilizes over 30 million acres of land, according to the document.
The DoD executes authority in nearly every business arena — from acquisitions, to command and control, to global logistics, to health and medical care, to intelligence, to facilities management – and cybersecurity.
The department operates the world’s biggest enterprise network. As a snapshot, some of DoD’s IT statistics include a DoD IT budget of more than $36 billion in fiscal year 2015, about 10,000 operational systems, hundreds of data centers, tens of thousands of servers, millions of computers and IT devices, and hundreds of thousands of commercial mobile devices.
The new strategy outlines the way forward to secure an effective, efficient DoD IT environment. It will further implement capabilities for the JIE vision, including cloud computing, data center consolidation, and improving trusted information sharing.
In a media call with reporters, as reported by Federal News Week, Halvorsen explained that by the first quarter of 2017, the department will assemble a team made up of DoD CIO personnel and experts from the military services to conduct site visits at the department’s 25 most expensive data centers. The team is now consulting with industry to draft a list of criteria it will use in determining which centers could be made to operate more efficiently or should be closed.
The DoD CIO office also aims to set up an on-premise cloud managed service by the fourth quarter of FY 2017, according to the document.
According to the strategy, the DoD aims to modernize its communications infrastructure and increase maneuverability within the electromagnetic spectrum to provide greater operational and technical resilience, improve plug-and-play and effectiveness, and faster communications delivery,
at reduced costs.
A near-term focus is to continue modernization efforts to increase communications bandwidth in
the DoD Information Network (DoDIN), like Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications
(NC3) and command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) systems, the document states.
DoD IT of Tomorrow – Integrated, Resilient, Dynamic, Secure, Responsive
Today’s strategic environment, warfare extends into space and cyberspace. Enemy capabilities in these areas can be expected to expand in tomorrow’s strategic environment. To meet this challenge, the DoD aims to build a seamless, transparent infrastructure that transforms data into actionable information and ensures dependable mission execution in the face of the persistent cyber threat.
To operate the DoD’s massive IT infrastructure operate more efficiently and effectively, the department is working to make its $36 billion-dollar IT budget more transparent. Department IT spending is set by law and executed under U.S. Code Title X, which means it is decentralized by law, more effective oversight of IT investments is essential. Effective oversight will empower decision makers to better understand how IT money is spent and improve the quality of DoD IT investments. DoD will not succeed without close collaboration with its industry, mission, and other critical partners, according to the strategy.
The DoD is moving toward a consolidated office automation and collaboration environment that delivers unified capabilities across the department. This will provide a set of tools and services that can be accessed and used by any department entity or individual to share and communicate information.
The DoD is working to ensure mission success in the face of cyber warfare by the most capable adversaries. The Way Forward envisions an environment in which any mission can be successfully executed in a threat-ridden cyber environment. The department is helping to ensure that national assets are available, ready and assured when needed, the document stated.
The Defense Department is moving from a culture of compliance to a culture of risk assessment, transitioning to thinking about IT as a capability rather than as a program, Halvorsen explained to reporters.
The DoD CIO’s office will work to update the accreditation and certification process and migrate DoD’s networks to the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system by the second quarter of FY 2017 to improve cybersecurity, according to the document.
The DoD Information Technology Environment Way Forward to Tomorrow’s Strategic Landscape is a “living document” whose goals include better cooperation with foreign mission partners, such as NATO, the Five Eyes, Japan and others, and the IT industry to help develop future versions.
The Five Eyes intelligence alliance is comprised of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. These countries are bound by the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.
Sharon Anderson is the CHIPS senior editor. She can be reached at