Any Device, Any Time, Anywhere

May 24, 2011
By Max Cacas

When it comes to the transition for C4I systems to cloud computing architectures, both the challenge-and the promise-boils down to "getting the right information to the right individual at the right time-and [doing] it securely." Teri Takai, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks, and DoD Chief Information Officer (CIO), offered her thoughts on the path to cloud computing as the keynote speaker to the AFCEA Solutions series conference, "Critical Issues in C4I", sponsored by AFCEA International and George Mason University C4I Center. Takai, who comes to the Defense community from a long stint as CIO for the state of California, told the C4I attendees that, especially in the cloud computing environment, technology continues to develop much faster than our ability to keep up, especially in the way that this technology is procured. Acknowledging that it's "hard to go to a conference these days where they aren't talking about the cloud," Takai offered a progress report on some of the current initiatives in her office relevant to the Defense Department's transition to the cloud. For example, she outlined a broad set of initiatives aimed at computer network defense focusing on:

  • Insider threats: detecting anomalous behavior to detect threats originating from within organizations;
  • A set of pilot programs in the defense / industrial base: "We're getting fantastic results," said Takai, noting that the pilot programs are uncovering thousands of incidents;
  • A Federal-wide supply chain risk management strategy, including a working agreement signed yesterday between Defense Secretary Gates and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in the area of cybersecurity.

Takai said other steps either completed or in progress include the creation of the U.S. Cybercommand within the Defense Department,  initiating steps to reform IT acquisition policies, efforts to "standardize, simplify and make more reliable" IT consolidation efforts, eliminating data centers and identity management. The most tangible of those efforts now underway concerns the effort to consolidate all e-mail in the Pentagon's sphere, possibly under a common operating platform hosted by DISA, which is one of the scenarios now under consideration. Takai said her goal as CIO is to help provide mission-oriented focus to the transition to the cloud, adding that she does not want to see an ad hoc evolution to cloud architectures. Instead, she continued, the transition must be viewed "holistically," also saying that for the first time, the Pentagon is being forced to deal with "commercially available" products and making them part of a cloud solution. She said younger warfighters are entering military service accustomed to iPhones, iPads, Blackberrys and other mobile computing platforms, and expecting to use them, not only to communicate with their families, but also with their colleagues. Takai also pointed to the joint effort with the Department of Veterans Affairs to develop a common electronic health record as another project with implications for cloud computing. Asked how she might measure the success of any cloud computing strategy at the pentagon, Secretary Takei suggested that success at speeding up the acquisitions process-at a time when technology development continues to move faster than our ability to keep up-might be one indicator of tangible improvements devolving from the transition to cloud computing.

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