Gaining Consensus on the Joint Information Environment

June 26, 2013
By George I. Seffers
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Although pockets of resistance still exist, leaders in the Defense Department and military services largely agree on the need for a Joint Information Environment, according to panelists at the AFCEA International Cyber Symposium in Baltimore. The JIE will one day consolidate all of the department’s myriad networks into one while providing enterprise services, such as email, Internet access, common software applications and cloud computing. It is expected to increase operational efficiency, enhance network security and provide cost savings through reduced infrastructure and manpower.

Anthony Valletta, an independent consultant, led the panel with lessons he learned while serving as the assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence the Pentagon. “Don’t tell anyone about the savings you’re going to get because the comptrollers will take the money within two minutes after you’ve made the announcement,” and “get the buy-in from the services,” he warned.

The panelists agreed that buy-in mostly exists already. Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, USA, director of command, control, communications and computers for the joint staff, offered some blunt comments on the JIE. He indicated that the joint environment is his highest priority and described the joint environment as the way to the future. “We have no choice. We have to be interoperable day one, phase one, to plug into any operation anywhere in the world, whether it be for homeland defense, disaster relief here in the United States or some combat operation somewhere around the world with coalition partners,” Gen. Bowman declared.

Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, U.S. Army chief information officer, spoke passionately about the need for JIE, calling it “absolutely essential.” Gen. Lawrence said the real attraction of JIE for the warfighter is that “we’ve got to be able to deploy on little notice into any austere environment.”

The Army chief of staff has expressed concern that the service has “grown too comfortable with the network that we’ve got in the Middle East,” Gen. Lawrence revealed. “Being connected to the network will be key. In fact, Gen. [Raymond] Odierno’s task to me is that every soldier will be connected to the network,” Gen. Lawrence said. She quoted the 18th Airborne Corps commander as saying that when a soldier presses the push to talk button on a radio, “he will have the full power of America’s Army behind him” with JIE.

Teresa Salazar, deputy chief, Office of Information Dominance and deputy chief information officer, U.S. Air Force, said she saw the need for the JIE while in the desert, where every service and every “three-letter agency” came in with their own network. “It was vulnerable, and there were issues with all of it. JIE is going to address this for the department. It is much needed,” she said, adding that the Air Force chief of staff also is fully behind the concept.

Still, not everyone is sold on the idea, Gen. Bowman acknowledged. He said that the senior leadership fully supports the JIE and wants to implement it as soon as possible. “And at the lowest levels, there’s a definite desire, want and need to move to JIE. They’re demanding it.” But at the higher middle level, there are people who have designed a system they want to see implemented, or who resist for cultural reasons, he noted.

Gen. Bowman compared the JIE capabilities to food on a menu and reported that everyone is being told to consume everything on the list. “The only way you get a bye to consuming something on that menu is to demonstrate and prove that you are allergic to consuming that, and that it’s going to cause a mission problem for you,” he warned.

Some audience members noted, however, that the Navy and Marine Corps officials were absent from the panel, and one attendee asked if Navy and Marine Corps officials accept the JIE vision. The answer from panelists was a resounding yes.

David DeVries, the Defense Department’s deputy chief information officer for information enterprise, explained that the Navy did precursor work for JIE when they adopted the Navy/Marine Corp Intranet more than a decade ago. Now, the service has already committed to the Next Generation Enterprise Network. “When you’re already on a contract, you don’t just change things on a dime,” DeVries said.

Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Marshall Lytle, USCG, Coast Guard director of command, control, communications and computers and chief information officer, defended the Marine Corps, saying the Marines have offered a model for the JIE with their Marine Corps network, which ultimately will make it easier to transition to NIE.


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