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.
Homeland security officials are battling privacy and technology issues amid the new social media era that offers both challenges and opportunities. Just as new technologies and information sharing architectures have improved interagency data sharing, new sources of potentially valuable information have emerged to vex planners who must handle technical obstacles and personal rights.
By the end of this fiscal year, the next-generation command and control system for much of the cutter fleet should be installed on the U.S. Coast Guard’s 270-foot cutter class, and the system is now being considered for inclusion on 225-foot and 110-foot vessels. The system, called SeaWatch, combines navigational and tactical, optical surveillance and communications into one situational awareness picture; provides commonality across the fleet; and replaces an aging system that has outlived its usefulness.
As the national security establishment emerges from more than a decade of counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan and refocuses on other global priorities, the means by which intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) supports those priorities must change as well. ISR operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have been conducted in relatively permissive air environments that have allowed the use of long-dwell airborne platforms to provide sustained surveillance of targets of interest. This has led to an imagery-, and more specifically, full motion video (FMV)-intensive pattern of collection.
U.S. Navy officials expect to award a full-deployment contract for a new shipboard network this spring, and they plan to install the system on nine ships this year. The network provides commonality across the fleet, replacing multiple aging networks, improving interoperability and driving down costs.
When the U.S. Coast Guard fields its newest cutter next year, the ship will be equipped with an information technology package that offers common tools and capabilities among the cutter and aviation fleets. The technology suite will improve interoperability across the service and with other agencies, and it enhances situational awareness while providing flexibility for future upgrades.
The U.S. Defense Department now is advancing into the third generation of information technologies. This progress is characterized by migration from an emphasis on server-based computing to a concentration on the management of huge amounts of data. It calls for technical innovation and the abandonment of primary dependence on a multiplicity of contractors.
Fiscal constraints and technology evolution are forcing the government to re-evaluate procurement efforts with a renewed vigor. Industry has suggestions for improving processes, but progress will require a different level of dialogue between companies and their public-sector clients. Company leaders believe they can help government overcome some of its issues because they understand both realistic technical solutions as well as the effect policies have on acquisition cycles. But they need the opportunity to show what is available. Government personnel increasingly are calling for that knowledge; however, legal and fair competition concerns often limit meaningful discussion, resulting in misunderstanding and frustration.
The U.S. Army is adjusting its Network Integration Evaluations to facilitate acquisitions more rapidly. Calls from industry and soldiers themselves have precipitated the moves. As companies face reduced funding streams, and technology advances in increasingly shorter intervals, implementing briefer time frames between testing and deployment is imperative to remaining viable on and off the field.
Historical trends during military drawdowns indicate that current Defense Department budget cuts could last for more than a decade. This situation could endanger major acquisition programs and negatively impact the ability of the United States both to pivot forces to the Asia-Pacific region and to maintain a presence in the Middle East, experts say. But the department may have a short window of opportunity to reconcile strategy with lower budgets.
The U.S. Pacific Fleet is feeling the pain of budget cuts, and its commander is looking toward industry to provide it with necessary capabilities under tight budgetary conditions. Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., USN, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, described the approaches he wants industry to take along with the fleet’s requirements on the final day of TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
“We’re looking to our partners in industry to develop the new technologies and capabilities we need,” Adm. Harris declared. “And, we have do it in a fiscally constrained environment.”
Defense spending must shift its outlook away from what it needs and toward where it can afford not to spend money, according to a Navy information technology executive. Terry Halvorsen, Department of the Navy chief information officer, told the breakfast audience at the final day of TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii, that the department must become more outcome focused and determine the risk of not doing something.
“The number one question in the Pentagon today is, ‘What am I not going to spend money on?’” Halvorsen stated.
Future defense information technology is likely to focus on a set of services instead of specific elements. Accordingly, bidders likely will consist of industry teams bringing diverse expertise to the acquisition table.
This view was offered by Terry Halvorsen, Department of the Navy chief information officer, at the breakfast during the final day of TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Halvorsen cited the Navy’s Next-Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) acquisition as an example of the future. The winning bidder was a consortium that comprised several different companies
Reductions in defense funding are having a greater effect on the force than simply instilling fiscal belt-tightening. Already strapped for cash, the services are exploring innovative ideas for cost-efficient information technology acquisition.
Terry Halvorsen, Department of the Navy chief information officer, discussed the effect of the budget cuts at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Halvorsen observed that, while each of the military departments is in a different information technology environment, all of the staffs in the services are taking corresponding cuts. “We will have to communicate more effectively,” he offered. ”We won’t have less work.”
The move to the cloud that is gripping all elements of government and industry offers great potential for the U.S. Navy, according to its chief information officer. Terry Halvorsen told the breakfast audience on the final day of TechNet Asia-Pacific 2013 in Honolulu, Hawaii, that the move to the cloud is one of the best areas for gaining effect in Navy information technology.
However, other elements must fall into place for this move to be successful. Halvorsen said it must be but it must be coupled “with how you look at and structure applications,” adding the Navy has too many applications.
The U.S. Navy is expanding its autonomous subsurface fleet with the introduction of a platform designed for persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) as well as offensive capabilities. Dubbed the Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV), the program of record should result in a system that offloads missions from other assets.
When stripped to the bare essentials, the process followed in most defense acquisitions is quite simple. A requirement is generated, an acquisition strategy developed and a contract let, before the item is produced, deployed, sustained and, eventually, disposed of. Typically, efforts at acquisition reform have dealt with the predeployment phases and consist mostly of renaming the phases by changing milestones from ABC to 123 and back to ABC, by sliding milestone events left or right and by adding oversight reviews.
The U.S. Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network, freed from the challenge to its contract award, now enters a phase of uncertainty as the government and the winning bidder confront the aftermath of a 108-day delay. This delay has affected both the Navy’s and the contractor’s plans for the transition from the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet.
The U.S. military’s readiness to fight and its ability to purchase major weapon systems for the future are both threatened by strict budget caps established under sequestration, the Joint Chiefs warned during a November 7 hearing with the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services. Major weapon systems, including aircraft carriers, unmanned aerial vehicles, the ballistic missile submarine replacement program known as SSBN-X and the Army’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program, all could be negatively impacted, the chiefs say.
Current fiscal and world conditions are taking their toll on the ability of the U.S. Army’s signals community to keep soldiers equipped with the latest developments. However, leadership embraces the challenges as impetus to improve, ensuring that troops are prepared as they transition from an operational to a contingency force. Necessity is inspiring creativity to developing solutions, with the government reaching out to industry for more help. As the service branch’s chief information officer/G-6, Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, said, “You can’t wring your hands if you’re rolling up your sleeves.”