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Question: Should Industry Ignore the Joint Information Environment (JIE)?

March 1, 2014
By Al Mink


Answer: No. The evolution to the JIE is important for our future warfighters, and it affects the private sector supporting national security.

It’s impossible these days to attend a U.S. Defense Department information technology presentation without repeated mentions of the Joint Information Environment (JIE). But industry representatives often ask, “What does JIE mean to me?” I did some digging into the environment—leveraging the expertise of the AFCEA Technology Committee, discussions with several senior defense information technology leaders and insights from colleagues at my firm who participated in JIE Increment 1 in Europe.

Military leaders emphasize that the JIE is not a funded program. However, industry would be wrong to relegate the environment to the graveyard of other unfunded initiatives. The JIE affects industry in three areas: subject matter expertise (SME), directly related modernization and non-JIE modernization.

Already, the military has tapped industry for SME support. For example, both the department’s chief information officer and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) have obtained industry expertise through task orders containing JIE scope. As the JIE gains momentum, government organizations increasingly will require SME related to the JIE.

Modernization directly related to the JIE represents the greatest area for industry support. It encompasses programs under the JIE umbrella that modernize the environment’s three capability sets—infrastructure, enterprise services and security. The most visible such initiative is Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) routers. The Army plans to use the MPLS to align with the JIE this calendar year. Roughly $22 million already was spent on the project with another $175 million to purchase necessary security stacks. The MPLS was funded as a new program, but much of the JIE is likely to be acquired through existing contracts. For example, much of DISA’s engineering for Defense Enterprise Email came through existing agency contracts, and industry support for the JIE Increment 1 leveraged the information technology support contract for the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command.

The third area affecting industry is non-JIE modernization. The JIE focuses on the defense enterprise, and the defense enterprise affects how service-unique systems will be developed and maintained. Proven JIE experience will become increasingly important in the selection of industry partners for non-JIE modernization.

So, how should industry leadership prepare for success in supporting the department in the JIE era? I’m not sure anyone has all the answers, but some actions suggest themselves:

  • Review your firm’s current programs to identify those providing qualifications and past performance related to the JIE. Analyze your firm’s current programs to identify those at risk for being downsized or eliminated as the JIE evolves. Plan for even further reductions or cancellations.
  • Stand up a JIE center of excellence, or at least grow a JIE expert for your firm. This expertise could be applied directly to help the military through the JIE SME now, while providing internal expertise to support JIE-related programs in the future.
  • Brainstorm on each of the three capability areas (infrastructure, enterprise services and security architecture) to identify how your firm may replace or consolidate today’s disparate decentralized legacy services or systems with one at a department level.
  • Analyze future service-unique procurements already in your game plan to consider how they will be affected by the JIE. Engage defense cyberleaders in the JIE discussion. The JIE governance structure identifies the stakeholders across Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, defense agencies and the four services. This dialogue will become increasingly important to industry for insights on the JIE’s impact on specific programs.

The JIE is here to stay. Technologically, our nation deserves the secure, integrated and interoperable environment possible through it. Fiscally, our nation’s budget limitations drive us to seek the efficiencies the JIE can offer. Most importantly, from a global operations standpoint, our nation demands our military forces have the flexibility and agility the JIE provides. The JIE’s immaturity today is not a reason for industry to ignore it, but rather a rallying call to prepare ourselves and engage with our nation’s cyberleaders to collaboratively shape the future of the JIE.

 

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