The Defense Department's planned Joint Information Environment is intended to bring various sources of information together so that defense personnel can access it on various devices, even from the battlefield. Turning JIE from concept to reality, however, is not easy. (Pictured: Army Spc. Kerry Lampkin points a satellite communications antenna during an operation to find weapons caches and known terrorist suspects within the village of Malhah in the Kirkuk province of Iraq.) (SSGT SAMUEL BENDET / Air Force)
The Defense Department is taking a closer look at priorities and approaches regarding its flagship IT restructuring effort, the Joint Information Environment, as officials try to nail down a path forward for the comprehensive but nebulous initiative.
Leaders at DoD remain committed to the multi-year project that will centralize military networks, IT and communications, but they’re struggling to move beyond general ideas and on to where the rubber meets the road, according to the Pentagon’s acting CIO.
“The concept is absolutely the right concept,” Terry Halvorsen said June 25 at the AFCEA International cyber symposium in Baltimore. “Concepts by themselves, however, are not executable. They have to be put into discrete, executable, definable, affordable, measurable objectives. You’ve got to know what your win is. My position? We haven’t done that as well as we need to with JIE.”
Halvorsen said that at a recent meeting between staff from the DoD CIO office, the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Joint Staff’s cyber directorate, officials made progress in determining executable areas of focus and priority.
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Among those priorities: DoD’s joint regional security stacks (JRSS), which serve as central nerve points in the DoD network that link millions of users. Under JIE, DoD will consolidate hundreds of existing security stacks into roughly 15 at strategic locations around the world. The JRSS focus will center on the costs, timelines and work required to get them complete, as well as defining the payback in terms of capability and funding, Halvorsen said.
Another area of priority is DoD’s legacy IT infrastructure, which Halvorsen described as being “in a challenged state” and unlikely to be fixed before fiscal 2016. He noted particular worry about the military’s aging switches and routers that limit today’s operations, and said he’s seeking to put out guidance for investing in more agile, responsive, software-defined versions.
But above all, Halvorsen’s top concern is funding. He acknowledged his own characteristic preoccupation with money and costs, arguing that it’s necessary to carry out the mission effectively and emphasizing the need to better understand costs.
“If you’re in the Pentagon you better know how to fund things, you better know how to make things affordable or they will not get done,” Halvorsen said. “We’ve got to be able to define what the win is -- do that in a series of steps where we set the right priority, we look at the money that’s the available, we look at the time that’s available, and we sequence that right. It’s hard work, it’s painstaking work and the way some of our systems are set up it’s not going to be easy work. But that’s the way it has to be done.”