The word transparency is used in many different places but with different results. Transparency is what we want in Congress, friendships, relationships and processes, as well as in city council meetings, school board decisions, neighborhood association rules and acquisition strategies. However, in today’s world, very few things are opaque—particularly when it comes to the process of government procurement. What should be an extremely transparent process remains one of the most coveted havens of secrecy, power and waste, and we all pay the price.
This is as simple as a tale of two airports.
Last year, as the April 15 tax deadline approached, I realized that I did not have my W-2 statement from the Navy Reserve. I knew it was no problem because all of that information was “easily” available at MY-PAY online. That was simple—“simple” being a very relative term—when I had a Common Access Card (CAC) and reader. However, as a retired 0-6 without a CAC, there was no “simple” button available to make this process work.
We want partners—not vendors.” All of the government-industry days, procurement updates or program reviews offer the constant call for industry to “be our partner, bring us innovation; work with us to enhance the capability for the warfighter or the ultimate end user.” Yet, partnership is a two-way street. Partnership involves communication, open and transparent management of expectations, honest relationships and decisions that allow both sides to manage their requirements. Partnership is not just a word. It takes work to achieve win-win situations—for each side to treat the other with respect and to make good decisions quickly to minimize cost for both sides.
A week ago, I spent three nights in the hospital with my 17-year-old son, who was suffering from severe headaches and uncontrolled nausea. One test after another revealed nothing, and we ended up with a diagnosis of, “Get him some rest, keep something down and hydrate him with IVs [intravenous fluids], and we’ll see.” Needless to say, his dad—a trained submarine nuclear officer and former chief information officer of Navy Medicine—was ready to stand the watch in the hospital. “Get him some rest and fluids…”—a simple assignment—or so it seemed.
With our military stretched among three fronts, our volunteer force is bearing a tremendous burden of OPTEMPO, reduced budgets and political posturing. A recent experience I had with our disabled veterans highlighted the reasons why we do what we do. It may be a good reminder to us all.
In this month's SIGNAL Magazine, Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.), makes some interesting points about the new Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) that will be replacing the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) once the contract for the latter expires. Grace wonders if this is the best approach, noting the general success of the NMCI after the early years of growing pains. His notion is that we will have to endure another long round of troubleshooting with the NGEN, and he wonders whether this is the best use of resources (not to mention taxpayer money) given that the NMCI has resolved most of its early problems, at least as far as it could have "within the constraints of policy, procedure and security-three very difficult masters," according to Grace.
In the late 1990s, the U.S. Navy decided it needed to change the way it handled information technology. So, it created the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet, or NMCI. Yes, for many, it was seen as a four-letter word. With the NMCI, the Navy elected to outsource the entire program to industry—the company EDS. The process took many years of study and analysis, as well as dealing with policy, procedure, culture wars and a host of other common barriers to any new concept. From congressional oversight to acquisition nightmare, every potential roadblock emerged. Yet, the NMCI was implemented, and one lesson from that implementation applies very much today as the Navy seeks to upgrade its information technology.
In this month's Incoming column, Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.), discusses the difficulties of change, whether it involves renovating his home or upgrading government information technology. He asks, "What is the proverbial air conditioner in our government and business systems that we are not willing to move, even though it would make everything work? Did we invest in a technology a few years ago that now doesn't scale, but we are not willing to move from our previous decision and continue to throw good money at a wrong decision?"
For the past 15 years, my family has been in an ongoing love-hate relationship with our 110-year-old historic New Orleans home, and we recently decided it finally was time to do “the big one” and renovate it. Do we move out or do we live with the mess? Can we still operate with some sanity and functionality in the house while we’re making the changes? What about our budget, managing the architecture and requirements of historic preservation?
This month, Capt. Joseph A. Grace Jr., USN (Ret.) likens the state of government technology to that of an 8-track tape player--"now DIACAP-certified, ruggedized, encrypted and able to be thrown out of the car window at 60 miles per hour unharmed"--in an iPod world, thanks to a bloated procurement process.
In the early 1970s, the music industry was transformed by the arrival of a practical solution to mobile music—the 8-track player. The world embraced this technology, which infected car stereos, home entertainment systems, portable players and lifestyles. While transformational, this technology soon was replaced by the cassette, followed by CDs and audio DVDs until Apple came out with the iPod—another game-changing technology. The market has created many forms of iPod docking stations for cars, clock radios, entertainment systems, airplane seats, pillows and every possible application. Uses include photos, FM radio, podcasts, videoconferencing and Wi-Fi. This technology is significantly smaller, faster, more comprehensive, more capable and inherently more user-friendly than its 8-track progenitor. The same lessons from this progression can be applied to command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) and government information technology.
Where have all the leaders gone? Gone to better opportunities every one; when will we ever learn, when will we ever learn. Who ever would have thought that the words from the popular protest song of the 1960s could be so relevant to the world of technology and leadership today?
Much has been written about maneuver in various domains of conflict—land, sea and air. As in many other fields, the thinking owes much to the late Col. John Boyd, USAF, who is well known for his concept of the OODA loop (observe, orient, decide, act), and who contributed materially to thinking about maneuver warfare vice attrition warfare.
Cyberdefense is far from being a challenge just for the United States—there are many international aspects to this issue. In this column last month, I cited the important Foreign Affairs article “Defending a New Domain” by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bill Lynn, which addresses U.S. Defense Department cyberstrategy head on.
Alliance relationships depend on shared trust, especially in networked environments. Lynn’s article notes that, “Some of the United States’ computer defenses are already linked with those of U.S. allies, especially through existing signals intelligence partnerships, but greater levels of cooperation are needed to stay ahead of the cyberthreat. Stronger agreements to facilitate the sharing of information, technology and intelligence must be made with a greater number of allies.”
This month, Linton Wells II drew his inspiration for Mission Assurance Moves to the Fore in Cyberspace from Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III's recently published article, Defending a New Domain: The Pentagon's Cyberstrategy. Wells summarizes Lynn's strategy points, noting that taken on a whole they have a broader implication than just cyberdefense. It has more to do with mission assurance, he says. But he has a number of concerns, among them: how will the new cyberstrategy be implemented? And how can the private sector do a better job of meeting its requirements?
Last month I expressed concern that the growing gap between online functionality and security demanded a rethinking of several key aspects of security—more focus on tagging and tracking data, rethinking resilience and robustness, clearer security policies, and a need to change people’s behavior to reflect more security awareness.
No matter how much we think technological solutions will be the panacea for all our information assurance concerns, there's still the human factor to consider, writes Linton Wells II in this month's Incoming column, "Uneasy Sleep in a Golden Age":
This summer I attended a series of thought-provoking conferences, ranging from business technology to clean energy to cybersecurity and network integration. Collectively, they suggest that we’re living in a “golden age” of technological innovation, but they also highlighted a growing gap between increasingly interactive capabilities and the ability to provide security at several levels, ranging from individual privacy to critical infrastructure protection. The bottom line is that nothing I heard makes me sleep better at night.
Linton Wells II points to UnityNet as an example of how information sharing can support U.S. and coalition strategy in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the globe. He then challenges readers: "Now think of how you can support UnityNet-like approaches."