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Interview with DISA Director Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins Jr.

Aug. 8, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By BARRY ROSENBERG   |   Comments
DISA Director Ronnie Hawkins MWM 20130715
Defense Information Systems Agency Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr. is seen July 15 at DISA Headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. (Mike Morones / Staff)

Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins Jr. is director of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), a position he assumed in January 2012. His prior positions include deputy director of command, control, communications and computer systems (C4) at the Joint Staff; vice director of DISA; as well as deputy chief of staff for communications and information systems for Multi-National Force-Iraq. He spoke with C4ISR & Networks Editor Barry Rosenberg about enterprise architecture, mobile device management, cloud computing, secure collaboration and agency reorganization.

C4ISRNET: DISA is establishing an Enterprise Operations Center (EOC) in Stuttgart, Germany, which is about to begin its Increment 1, Initial Operational Capability (IOC). What is the role of the EOC?

HAWKINS: The plan is to start managing the DoDís capabilities at the enterprise level instead of service-unique and/or functional-specific management of the networks. Itís about us managing that capability at the enterprise level. Stuttgart is a center of gravity in Europe for the military services, as well as for other capabilities that we have in Europe. Right now it is geographically specific, so it is for the European theater, but we will also have EOCs in other geographic locations, such as the Pacific and in CONUS, as well.

C4ISRNET: What does the EOC Increment 1 IOC entail?

HAWKINS: Predominantly tactics, techniques and procedures that we typically now do at each of the different services. It will allow access and information to flow through the joint environment ó in other words, everybody is going to be seeing the status of everybody elseís networks. Itís about info sharing and thatís what youíre going to see at the enterprise level for our networks in the European theater, to include EUCOM and AFRICOM, as well.

C4ISRNET: How will your mobile device management (MDM) strategy bring mobile devices onto the network? How will it facilitate development of the mobile application store?

HAWKINS: Iím interested in MDM creating a secure environment that augments the security that resides on each of our different mobile devices. Within that secure ecosystem, we can manage the information on the device, as well as manage that environment. It allows us to provide the features on each device that give the user the ability to access systems and data on the move so we can really start exploiting data on the move. Mobility is a disruptive technology, and MDM now allows us to do those things. When you start looking at where weíre going with the mobile application store, that capability operates in conjunction with MDM in that weíre able to deliver, update and also delete applications on a specific mobile device without the user having to bring it back into the building, for example. We can do that over the air. They can pull down the apps they need, they can delete apps they donít need anymore, and we can also manage the applications at the enterprise level.

C4ISRNET: Youíre using Defense Connect Online for collaboration in a classified environment. Do you envision DCO being replaced by a secure cloud for collaboration?

HAWKINS: I donít want to say DCO will migrate to the cloud. We are looking at Unified Capability [for everything over IP], and a subset of that is collaboration. So as we roll that out through the Joint Information Environment [JIE] and at the enterprise level we will have the collaboration capabilities that are just like DCO. I donít want to say that it will be DCO because we havenít gone through the vetting process to do that. But we intend to have collaboration capability at the enterprise level through what we call Unified Capability

C4ISRNET: DISA is working with agencies like the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to reduce IT expenditures by as much as 20 percent without cutting back on capabilities. How are you doing that?

HAWKINS: Number one, we team with the different agencies, be they DLA, the Defense Intelligence Agency or whomever that agency might be. Specifically with DLA, we held a DISA/DLA day, and myself and DLA Director Vice Adm. Mark Harnitchek got together and talked about where there are efficiencies that can be gained from DISA doing particular IT work for DLA, or additional IT work for DLA, because we already do a lot of that right now. Matter of fact, they are one of our biggest customers when it comes to consumption of IT capability within DISA. So how we improve upon that is what we have been working on. And that is also a reason we have realigned our organization from customer resource management and responsiveness perspectives, and put Mr. Alfred Rivera in charge of that. We are working to meet Vice Adm. Harnitchekís goal of a 20 percent reduction. At the same time, we are working internal to DISA to make sure we reduce our costs, as well. We are looking across our operational environment to make sure we do things from an efficacy perspective, yet still meet the needs of the warfighter and our customers when it comes time for them to ask for the best capabilities delivered at an optimal price.

C4ISRNET: Where is the low-hanging fruit in getting to that 20 percent reduction?

HAWKINS: It is getting over to one email system. Itís in their applications and virtualizing those in our hosted environment. Itís moving capabilities into the cloud, be it a private or public cloud, and working with our customers to do that smartly. Those are the low-hanging fruit we have with everyone.

C4ISRNET: Tell me more, please, about the reorganization you just mentioned.

HAWKINS: I believe our reorganization sets us in right stead to meet the JIE and enterprise requirements. Having Alfred Rivera (who was director of enterprise services at DISA and spearheaded the enterprise email efforts) focus in on customer relations is very important to us, as is bringing in Brig. Gen. Brian Dravis to run our JIE Technical Synchronization Office, and then hiring in Mr. Dave Stickley to make sure we in DISA are doing JIE in a horizontal fashion. I think this is going to pay big dividends for the Defense Department, as well as the agency, because we will be able to start normalizing across the agency instead of us building in a stove-piped fashion.

C4ISRNET: What have you learned about commercial cloud capabilities that can be applied to the military?

HAWKINS: What we have to look at is how we evolve the development of our cloud security architecture and what the commercial side has already done in that space to ensure the security of data. So we donít want to duplicate capabilities that the commercial/private side has already done.

C4ISRNET: Though there will be additional DoD-specific requirements beyond those outlined in the FedRAMP baseline requirements for security.

HAWKINS: There are additional ones that are predominantly tied to our security requirements guide. We also have to address the level of reciprocity that goes with the security requirements so that we donít have a particular user or vendor having to go through the same process over and over again. That has been one of the problems, whether you work with one service or another, the reciprocity is just not there. So this is one of the areas that I see as goodness as we become the cloud service broker for the services, in that we can ensure that reciprocity is adhered to rather than somebody coming in and appending a similar requirement that is just colored a different way.

C4ISRNET: What should industry look for in the near term in the area of new requests for proposals that the agency will be issuing?

HAWKINS: The one we will be working is in the area of Unified Capability. And as we increase our capability with JIE you will see us come out with something in that arena, too. We came out recently with an RFP on Big Data and will do similar RFPs in that vein to keep up with the different capabilities and requirements that are out there.

Rosenberg is editor of C4ISR & Networks, a sister publication of Federal Times.

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