DISA to further integrate enterprise infrastructure, services

The defense agency also expects its Rapid Access Computing Environment to be available for Secret IP Router Network application development as early as this spring.

Information technology officials at the Defense Information Systems Agency said Jan. 7 that they are close to finalizing a revised strategy to further integrate the agency’s enterprise infrastructure and other offerings for the military services.

“This is a new realm for us,” said John Garing, director of strategic planning and information at DISA, in describing more formalized plans to provide the equivalent a single “data dial tone” for the services. The agency is expected to release the plans, which are still under final review by DISA Director Lt. Gen. Carroll Pollett, in a matter of weeks, Garing said.

The new approach to operations would lay the groundwork for more fully integrating the Defense Information Systems Network, DISA’s data centers, and its command and control applications, said Dave Mihelcic, DISA’s chief technology officer. The agency is moving toward a massive data-cloud approach to sharing information, he added, but he declined to specify a timeline for such a move.

In addition, as early as this spring, DISA expects its private computing cloud, the Rapid Access Computing Environment (RACE), to accommodate pilot applications that could work on the Secret IP Router Network, Mihelcic said.

RACE offers a virtual venue for Defense Department developers to work securely behind DISA’s firewall when developing new applications, but it is limited to Unclassified but Sensitive IP Router Network applications.

Mihelcic said he envisions data delivery to ultimately be more about services than hardware and software and to be enabled by moving “everything over IP and IP over everything.”

He added that DISA would devote increased attention in the coming year to improving secure mobile computing and advancing efforts to control network access based on user attributes and role-based information.

“Our [overall] goal is for collaboration to be facilitated across the Defense Department using Web 2.0-type tools,” said Mihelcic, speaking Jan. 7 at an event held by the Washington, D.C., chapter of AFCEA International.

Before such major steps can be taken, the government’s current information technology infrastructure must be fortified, said Richard Hale, DISA’s chief information assurance executive.

“I worry about the fragility of our IT infrastructure in the face of cyber warfare” and other systematic threats, Hale said.

Mihelcic, Hale and fellow panelist Tony Montemarano, DISA’s component acquisition executive, stressed the need for continuity of operations despite the hurdles that pop up in the DOD IT system.

“The system can never be down,” Montemarano said. “We need prompt analysis and course-of-action communication…and we need quick remediation.”

Any new technologies must be compatible, incremental and usable enterprisewide to avoid disruption of operations in particular, the panelists said.

“The problem is that we have great solutions with single instantiations,” Montemarano said. “We can’t keep developing new software to replace the old.”