It’s that time of year. With the government fiscal year ending, agency leaders are pushing through their last-minute budget wish lists. A core part of those wishes either does or should relate to cybersecurity.
Many U.S. government sectors, including defense, intelligence, public safety, cybersecurity and space, have seen a recent shift toward embracing new technologies and methodologies for delivering capabilities in a more responsive, agile manner.
The ecosystem of technologies that is driving this innovation is diverse to say the least. The foundation of this ecosystem is the underlying IT infrastructure. The evolution of hyperconverged infrastructure is maximizing the density of computing power, random-access memory and storage in these modern data centers, making it easier and more cost effective for providers to leverage and deploy applications and solutions.
U.S. Army leaders have not consistently evaluated the efficiency and effectiveness of the department’s contracting operations, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has concluded. To amend the situation, the office recommends developing metrics to assess contracting operations for timeliness, cost savings and contract quality; documenting rationales for key decisions; and establishing measurable objectives to assess the effects of organizational changes on contracting operations.
The Defense Information Systems Agency is working to streamline its acquisition processes by using a mixture of efficiency and expertise. In some cases, the agency is adopting methods to free it from onerous Federal Acquisition Regulations. But mostly, its approaches leverage existing skills to condense traditionally drawn-out procedures.
The very qualities that define small businesses—agility, flexibility, inherent innovation—are driving the Defense Information Systems Agency to increase its efforts to bring their capabilities under the big tent of defense network services.
With the agency, known as DISA, tasked with providing warfighters and decision makers with the best in information technology, it must incorporate capabilities faster than is possible through normal acquisition processes involving large contractors. Ongoing efforts such as regular outreach and prime contract set-asides are being supplanted with new segmented contracts and drives to bring in nontraditional firms.
In 2010, the Defense Department began accelerating toward its information technology future by putting the brakes on data center growth. That year, the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative laid the groundwork for government investment in more efficient and modern computing platforms, which led to deployment of disruptive technologies such as the cloud as a key element of the DOD’s IT infrastructure.
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The intelligence community recently has directed activity toward creating common resources to increase collaboration and speed up the delivery of information technology tools for the government. The need for modern and cost-effective information technology solutions is paramount. However, complex, paper-heavy, time-consuming information-assurance processes steal capital required to modernize. This unproductive cycle affects both U.S. government systems and the industrial base that develops mission systems for the government.
Fifth in an ongoing series of articles
The U.S. government must bring its key software providers into the secure environment and use them as trusted partners in delivering and supporting their products. In many cases, these providers are not only the best sources of trusted software but also the only sources. Holding them contractually liable for certifying their products and delivering them directly to the end system may be the only way to reduce the time to furnish baseline systems, streamline costs and maintain product integrity and security.
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One technique for speeding up the acquisition process is the use of open systems architecture. Employing open systems architecture (OSA) capabilities is the intelligent way to create next-generation solutions for warfighters in all services. OSA-based solutions can optimize scarce financial and engineering resources and enable the United States and its coalition partners to extend their strategic military advantages over global adversaries.
Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, USA, has been assigned as director of operations; and director, rapid equipment fielding, Army Rapid Capabilities Office, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, Washington, D.C.
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Improving the speed and efficiency of the federal acquisition process will involve leveraging innovation to benefit end users. But as speed challenges are addressed, the integrity of the process must be maintained to preserve well-established requirements for full and open competition. These qualities are not mutually exclusive—in fact, they are complementary. Full and open competition helps improve the speed of acquisition and provides access to a range of innovative solutions and reduced total cost of ownership.
Sweeping changes are on the horizon for one NATO agency as it reshapes its software acquisition processes and embarks on a task to create what officials call an in-house “software factory.”
The NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency wants to overhaul the way it buys software after inspections revealed acute shortcomings that led to several program cost overruns and delays, says Paul Howland, chief of command and control services for NCI Agency, which serves as NATO’s information technology and command, control, communications and computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) provider, including cyber and missile defense.
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Among the latest steps the federal government has taken to reform the acquisition process, the U.S. Defense Department initiatives Better Buying Power 2.0 and 3.0 aim to improve the affordability of weapon system development and reduce the bureaucracy of program acquisition. In addition, Congress recently passed H.R. 1232, the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act, which seeks better ways to obtain and manage federal information technology systems.
Weapon system acquisition costs and schedules are trending exponentially, and unsustainably, up and to the right. The Air Force can move down the cost/schedule curve to benefit value delivered to the warfighter, and the key is communications and dialog, according to Lt. Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., USAF, military deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.
Industry must keep the Air Force honest for starters, the general explained. “If we are asking for something industry cannot do, they need to tell me that from the beginning,” he stated during his address to the AFCEA International/GMU Critical Issues in C4I Symposium.
Acquisition reform has been a topic of discussion among individuals in government, industry and academia for several decades. A regular outpouring of well-written studies has occurred year after year, such as the 1986 Packard Commission report, the 1992 U.S. General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) report on weapons acquisition, the 1993 report of the Defense Department Acquisition Law Advisory Panel and the more recent Center for Strategic and International Studies report “Measuring the Outcomes of Acquisition Reform by Major DoD Components.” These studies have made recommendations and measured progress. In some cases, the same recommendations are repeated from study to study.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is now accepting proposals for its upcoming Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program for fiscal year 2016. The Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate and the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) jointly issued the solicitation. S&T and DNDO are seeking technical solutions from small businesses in 13 topic areas. The pre-solicitation is available online.
This blog is a followup to an article in the October issue of SIGNAL Magazine, Operation Cooperation: U.S. Defense Officials Intend to Expand Asia-Pacific Partnerships.
Although tighter budgets motivate governments to cooperate on technology development, sequestration and the budget uncertainties in the United States have negatively impacted international partnerships, says Keith Webster, director of international cooperation, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.
The Defense Department’s much-anticipated capability solution to access classified voice and email up to the secret level from mobile devices finally migrated from the pilot stage and now is operational within the department and several federal agencies, says Kimberly Rice, program manger for the Defense Information Systems Agency’s (DISA's) Mobility Program Management Office.
It will not be long before adversaries narrow the superiority gap the United States holds over others in satellite technology—rivals who are unencumbered by bureaucratic stagnation and who can rapidly leverage commercial technology for military use, according to one panelist speaking at the Satellite 2015 symposium in Washington D.C.
Maj. Gen. Daniel Hughes, USA, program executive officer, command, control and communications-tactical (PEO-C3T), cops to being an impatient man. Patience is one of the first things to go as you age, he says.
That impatience showed during an interview for my March PEO Spotlight column, "Shaking Up the Radio Marketplace." It was a hard-charging zigzag from one topic to the next with a fair number of self-deprecating jokes scattered along the way. He spoke in a rapid-fire manner, as if concerned each word will consume too much time.