The Defense Department's quest for enterprise IT modernization has reached fever pitch with the budget chaos. But how much progress is actually being made?
There have been many hours of talk about modernizing the Defense Department and optimizing its IT infrastructure – even Army CIO Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence acknowledged this in March.
“We talk a great talk, we really do,” she said. “Our hearts are in the right place. But change is hard.”
Is all the talk bogging down progress, or is it providing a chance for DOD to right the ship?
The planning process seems to be a big reason behind the slow trudge toward a DOD enterprise network, which is a primary goal for defense IT at the moment. Both DOD CIO Teri Takai and DOD Deputy CIO Rob Carey at separate events in April said immense effort is going into developing a framework to support the much-discussed and much-needed military enterprise infrastructure that would connect the services.
“We have to manage the [DOD] network as a living, breathing entity," Carey said at an AFCEA Nova event April 22 in Vienna, Va. He said processes and technology need to be put into place to make it simpler to get information on the network. But at the same time, he added, "we have to do everything in a cogent manner so we don't break anything."
The effort to date is encouraging, Carey said. But he noted that significant cultural change is still needed, and the department is still hammering out a funding model for joint and enterprise initiatives.
“We’re working with the components, services and agencies to continue to develop detailed technical specifications and implementation plans,” he said.
For now, Carey said his office remains focused on near-term actions for moving toward a departmentwide IT infrastructure for data center consolidation, network standardization and optimization, enterprise identity management, enterprise e-mail, and enterprise hardware and software procurement.
He said that all of the work being done is toward three main goals: effectiveness, efficiency and improved cybersecurity.
Carey also said the continuing budget woes have become a catalyst for change at DOD – an idea Takai appears to be putting to work.
According to Takai, the scarcity of funds is driving innovation in technology and policy-making that will improve financial standings. This is turn will put the right technologies and policies in place to help yield the desired budget savings, she said.
“It’s easy with the budget crisis and DOD challenges to say, ‘We’re going to make efficiencies and budget savings top priority’ ... but when you pursue [the right solutions], you save money,” Takai said April 21 at an Input event in Arlington, Va. “It’s sometimes easier to make hard decisions when budgets are shrinking, because you don’t have the luxury of letting everyone do everything they’ve always wanted to do.”
It will be interesting to see the fruits of DOD's continuing labors in development and budget wrangling. The question is, when will the public see concrete evidence?