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Pentagon's CIO to Resign

April 28, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Teri Takai, the U.S. Defense Department’s chief information officer (CIO), submitted her resignation on Monday, a surprise announcement for some in the Pentagon.

Takai tendered her resignation to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. Her last day will be Friday, says Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, USAF, a Defense Department spokesman.

Takai sent a note to her staff Monday announcing her decision. She has been with the Pentagon since 2010, serving as the principal adviser to the defense secretary for information management/information technology and information assurance as well as non-intelligence space systems, critical satellite communications, navigation, and timing programs, spectrum and telecommunications.

“That is a long time to be serving in a position as demanding as hers,” Col. Pickart says. “It does offer many challenges and many sacrifices.”

He declined to provide additional details behind the surprise announcement but did say it was not the result of any wrongdoing.

If a replacement is not announced by Friday, her senior deputy, David DeVries, currently the deputy CIO for information enterprise, would become the acting Defense Department CIO, Col. Pickart says.

Before coming to the Pentagon, Takai served as CIO for California.

Industry Needs Mobility in Technology and Processes

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

Successful JIE implementation will require industry to be agile in providing key capabilities, particularly mobile communications. Gen. Bowman says reliable secure wireless and mobile command and control are the most important technologies needed from industry. “We’re talking about command and control devices on a tablet or some other handheld device—as well as helping us through the security wickets,” he expresses. In the security realm, these devices come down to a risk-based decision; the department must ensure that the right people are taking the right risk with the right information, he maintains. This might entail less than a 100-percent secure solution, as long as the risk is acceptable to the user.

Gen. Hawkins emphasizes mobility is the key capability that DISA is focusing on with industry. He says this goes beyond mobility devices to include “all things mobile,” including how information is moved. Another focus area is unified capabilities tied to collaborative tools that are in use now. “I believe the next command and control tool will be some type of collaborative tool that industry’s going to deliver, and we will use that in much the same way that we have grown to use video teleconferencing, for example,” he imparts.

DeVries says industry should look at providing capabilities both from a technology perspective and as a licensing and funding issue. Industry should aim to provide these capabilities in a way that does not take five years of planning and three years of building, by which time the capability is obsolete and the customer wants something new.

And, industry needs to help the department move off what it has built over the past 20 years onto “something more agile and modularized in terms of what types of data I need, how do I store it and how do I transmit it—and with more lightweight applications that I can secure and innovate quickly and use on any kind of platform, mobile or very thin clients,” he says.

Military Services Join Forces on JIE—to an Extent

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The individual services are pursuing different aspects of JIE development in what planners hope will be a synergy of capability and expertise. However, not all the services are sold on the JIE approach.

Gen. Hawkins believes the services are working well in concert with DISA. The agency is working with them on the single security architecture, which he describes as “a piece of an enterprise-level capability.” Tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) must be tied to how security is handled at the enterprise level, and all the services are working through the JIE executive committee, in which DISA is a partner.

The Air Force is partnering well with the other services, Gen. Bowman allows, and that is benefitting domestic JIE implementation. He expects to see a single security architecture at Joint Base San Antonio two years ahead of schedule, in large part because of Air Force/Army JIE efforts there. The Air Force “is jumping on enterprise services,” he says.

The Army “is all in” with enterprise solutions and a single security architecture, Gen. Bowman continues. The service is looking at what is has to spend money on, and then it strives to fulfill JIE requirements.

The U.S. Marine Corps already is focusing on consolidating its networks into the Next Generation Enterprise Network, or NGEN (SIGNAL Magazine, August 2013, page 47, “Marines Set the Stage …”), and the Marine Corps Enterprise Information Technology Services (MCEITS) center offers many opportunities for hosting data for the JIE. Also, the Marine Corps Network Operations and Security Center will serve as a backup for the enterprise operations center in Europe.

Cultural Change Poses Greatest Hurdle for JIE Implementation

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

JIE leaders offer that the biggest impediment to its success is the cultural change the JIE is bringing to the Defense Department. DeVries describes the department as a very large organization with processes built into it over a long period of time for defining requirements and then coming up with a recommendation of how to meet those requirements. Traditionally, the focus has been on buying a system to satisfy those requirements, and the services often had their own unique needs and methods of operation. “That culture is changing, and now we have to get away from meeting requirements with systems and instead toward capabilities, which might be fulfilled by services, the changing of procedures or even capitalizing on what your neighbor has and scaling that up to use across a broader front,” DeVries says.

Gen. Bowman agrees that cultural difficulties are among the biggest hurdles to be overcome, and he cites the unwillingness of some to share the view of how the network is running. “We all know when it’s performing right or not right, but it would be nice to know when it’s looking like it’s going to go south and have people in different locations looking at it from their view.” Having this shared view would be the equivalent of having a group of sensors scattered across the enterprise providing updates.

Another flaw is the concept of network possession, which manifests itself in the control culture that afflicts many people and organizations. “We need to be able to share; we need to focus on whose core competency [something] is, and then let them do it,” Gen. Bowman states. “Senior leaders get it; it’s getting people to let go that is one of the biggest concerns.”

That effort can begin at the top. “We need to see a Joint Base Pentagon,” the general declares. “We don’t have it now. We have several help desks in the Pentagon, for example, and we need to collapse those and move them together.

Budget Problems Impact Science and Technology Personnel as Much as Programs

April 21, 2014
By Sandra Jontz

Gadgets and gizmos are not the only things beset by the U.S. Defense Department’s continued battle with shrinking budget dollars. While some projects may be delayed, and others even derailed, the civilian work force “is now showing the early signs of stress,” Alan Shaffer, acting assistant defense secretary for research and engineering, recently warned Congress.

Furloughs, the government shutdown and sequestration, and decreasing budgets have an adverse impact on the 100,000 personnel that make up the Defense Department’s science and technology (S&T) work force.

“Combined with summer furloughs triggered by sequestration, FY13 presented unique challenges to a work force that had grown for the previous three years to meet the department’s increasing demand for technical and engineering talent to lead the development of increasingly sophisticated weapon systems,” spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea says.

Young workers leave the federal government for better-paying, and more stable, jobs in the civilian sector, and those who stay contribute to a faintly aging civilian work force.

“We saw a number of young scientists and engineers leave in 2013, early in their career. In conducting exit interviews, our laboratory directors reported that these young workers consistently cited travel and conference restrictions, as well as perceived instability of a long-term career, as motivating factors for their departure,” Elzea says.

The average age of scientists went from 45.6 years to 45.7 years, and for engineers from 43.2 years to 43.9 years. “Although the change seems minimal over the past two years, it reverses the trend over the past decade, when we had been driving the average age down,” she says.

Cyber Age Spawns Complexity for Homeland Security Mission

May 1, 2014
By George I. Seffers

Dealing with the world’s increasing complexity is the primary challenge to keeping the homeland secure, according to Adm. Thad Allen, USCG, (Ret.), executive vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton and former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. He lists border security, the cyberthreat, information sharing, terrorism, criminal organizations and climate change as elements adding to that complexity.

“We have to start understanding that the root problem we’re trying to deal with is to defeat complexities that inhibit working across boundaries to deliver solutions,” he said while serving as the morning keynote speaker on the first day of the AFCEA Homeland Security Conference in Washington, D.C., in March.

Adm. Allen set the tone for the conference. Speakers and panelists conveyed that the U.S. government and the private sector have made dramatic progress in keeping the homeland secure since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Information is more easily shared among government agencies and the private sector. Network security is better understood. Technology advances at a dizzying pace. But for all the progress made, many challenges still remain, the experts agreed.

Adm. Allen related terrorism to “political criminality” and declared that transnational criminal organizations constitute the real problem. “I don’t make a distinction between counterterrorism and transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking. They’re all connected,” he stated.

Regarding border security, he said borders no longer are managed in a traditional sense and should not necessarily be equated to a physical border. “The fact of the matter is we have migrated to what I call functional borders,” he offered. A container leaving central Europe, for example, for Omaha, Nebraska, may never be opened and inspected, but it will be fully vetted, and the potential for threat thoroughly assessed.

Having the Guts to Say No

May 1, 2014
By Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, USA (Ret.)

As a group, generals tend to be relentlessly positive. The pre-eminent U.S. soldier of recent years, Gen. Colin Powell, USA (Ret.), likes to remind us that, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” War and military operations are hard enough, but gloom and defeatism only make things harder. In combat, a morale edge sure helps. It is not by accident that Medal of Honor recipient Audie Murphy’s outfit, the U.S. Army’s famous 15th Infantry Regiment, has as its motto, “Can Do.”

As the more skeptical Mr. Murphy (he of the law, not Audie) reminds us, a great deal can and will go wrong in all human endeavors, especially war. But dwelling too much on potential problems surely will paralyze a military leader. Such hesitation spreads like a choking miasma. It stymies subordinate commanders and confuses the rank and file. Half-hearted attacks fail. In contrast, the side that knows its business and hangs in there for one more hard push often carries the day. That last winning surge can come from the will of a general who seizes an opportunity by seeing even a cracked, dirty glass as half-full. Winning in battle is all about positive action.

Sometimes senior commanders must size up the situation in minutes and pull the trigger. Under those conditions, seeing a chance and taking it may work just fine. At other junctures, particularly at the strategic level, there is time to consider conditions more fully. When regarding any strategic glass du jour, it is wise to recognize the real water level and not kid yourself, your peers or your bosses if it is lacking. An optimistic outlook helps a person find opportunities, but sometimes those opportunities just are not there, no matter how much anyone hopes for them. There is a responsibility for even the most positive people in uniform to tell superiors, military and civilian, the limits of “can do.”

Just How Important Is the Joint Information Environment (JIE)?

May 1, 2014
by Kent R. Schneider

Anyone following the progress of the Joint Information Environment (JIE) knows by now that it is not a program of record. No one will see large procurements to provide the JIE. It definitely is a framework: it defines standards and architectures for consistency across the defense environment. It defines a core environment and interfaces for the connection of networks and systems to the core. The JIE leverages initiatives to consolidate networks and data centers, to establish enterprise services and to implement transitional technologies such as cloud implementations, mobility, security solutions, big data and analytics, and the Internet of everything. It is a coordinating effort, using existing and planned programs, contracts and initiatives to provide a common operating environment rather than start with new acquisitions.

It is important to understand the JIE extends well beyond the boundaries of defense. It provides the path for better information sharing with other federal, state, local and tribal networks and systems. It is vital to achieving interoperability and ease of information sharing along with security with U.S. coalition partners.

Recently, I was in Europe attending AFCEA TechNet International and NATO C4ISR Industry Days, which are fully integrated in a single program. Key to this conference is AFCEA’s partnership with the NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency. An important element of this conference was reporting on the state of development of the Federated Mission Network (FMN), an evolution of the Afghan Mission Network (AMN), the information sharing environment created in Afghanistan to support the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The FMN is intended to institutionalize the AMN experience to provide an adaptable framework for information sharing in future NATO engagements, whether combat or humanitarian assistance.

Ask the Expert: Contract Consolidation and Bundling—Good for Government but Bad for Small Businesses?

May 1, 2014
By Staci Redmon

Question: Are contract consolidation, contract bundling
 and the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative good for the government but bad for small businesses?

Answer: Consolidating and bundling contracts may result in unintended bad consequences for small businesses. The extent of these consequences
is immeasurable due to government
information systems’ reported data limitations.
 

The U.S. federal government spends in excess of $500 billion annually to procure goods and services. In facing reduced budgets, the government is increasingly consolidating, bundling and strategically sourcing contracts that were previously set aside for small businesses. The size and scope of the new contracts can make it difficult for a small business to win, and by definition, when consolidation results in a contract likely to be unsuitable for small business award, the consolidated contract also is considered bundled. In all cases of consolidation, bundling and strategic sourcing, agencies must justify their actions for contracts above certain monetary thresholds and agencies must coordinate acquisition strategies with their small business specialists for substantially bundled contracts.

The Air Force Networks its Networks

May 1, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman

The U.S. Air Force networking that links its air assets has extended its reach into the rest of the service and the joint realm as it moves a greater variety of information among warfighters and decision makers. This builds on existing networking efforts, but it also seeks to change longtime acquisition habits that have been detrimental to industry—and, by connection, to the goal of speeding innovative capabilities to the warfighter.

The Air Force has broadened some of its research to apply to other networks such as the Joint Information Environment (JIE). One vital effort is the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, or BACN. It provides airborne links aboard crewed and unmanned aircraft, and future iterations may take the form of pods attached to combat aircraft. Other networks and capabilities are being developed or expanded.

This method is in line with the overall Defense Department approach to networking. “We’re starting to think much more ‘system of systems,’ but we need to graduate to ‘enterprise of enterprises,’” says Dr. Tim Rudolph, chief technology officer (CTO) at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. “It is that much of an integration of different features of different platforms.”

Rudolph also supports the Program Executive Officer (PEO) Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks (C3I&N) as CTO and chief architect, and he is a senior leader/technical adviser for integrated information capabilities. He explains that networking air assets includes domains such as terrestrial, space and cyber.

“Networking is like plumbing,” Rudolph analogizes. “Most people don’t hire plumbers because they like cast iron or copper [pipes]; they do it because they want to move something through the pipes.” The Joint Aerial Layer Network (SIGNAL Magazine, June 2013, page 52, “Joint Aerial Layer…”) provides a construct that allows a great deal of interoperability among assets in various domains, he observes.

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