The Department of Defense released its digital modernization strategy June 15 with a focus on four main goals: innovation for competitive advantage; optimization of capabilities; resilient cybersecurity; and cultivation of talent.

The strategy is part of a framework aimed at reforming IT, a $46 billion yearly investment at the Pentagon. The strategy said IT reform will create savings that can be reinvested in improving readiness, lethality and operationality.

“Information technology is a critical enabler for the command and control of forces executing war-fighting operations, management and protection of information assets, and collaboration with mission partners,” the DoD wrote.

Cloud computing is a centerpiece of the Pentagon’s modernization strategy, with the strategy saying that it’s an integral part of cybersecurity, command and control, and advanced analytics. The DoD said in the plan that its cloud strategy is a “main component” in its path to IT modernization.

“This foundation will enable the department to organize massive amounts of data and support rapid access to information for improved decision-making, preserving and extending our military advantage," the strategy read.

Integral to both its cloud strategies are two massive cloud computing contracts, both worth billion of dollars. The Defense Enterprise Office Solutions (DEOS) contract, potentially worth $8 billion, and the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, potentially worth $10 billion, are mentioned in the strategy as vital components of the Pentagon’s modernization.

“The Defense Enterprise Office Solution will enable the department to improve interoperability and enhance cybersecurity across DoD operational boundaries,” the DoD wrote. “DEOS will put collaboration and productivity capabilities in the hands of every DoD employee and war fighter to more effectively and efficiently accomplish their missions.”

The JEDI contract, which will service the DoD’s general purpose cloud, is now expected to be announced at the end of August. The Pentagon has said that 80 percent of its systems will go to the JEDI cloud.

The modernization plan also says the DoD will speed up evaluation and implementation of industry best practices and improve oversight of IT spending. To achieve this goal, the DoD plans to shift to an enterprisewide operations focus, away from a component-centric model. Additionally, the DoD will move applications unsuitable for the commercial cloud to data centers and consolidate its data centers “where practical.”

“Reform activities will standardize and modernize the digital environment to eliminate unnecessary systems and to allow DoD to focus finite cyberspace resources across fewer areas, ultimately shrinking the department’s cyberspace threat attack surface," the strategy said.

The department also restated its focus on artificial intelligence, singling out the importance of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center in increasing the use of artificial intelligence throughout the Pentagon to improve its effectiveness and lethality.

“It will operationalize AI capabilities by overcoming policy, technical and financial roadblocks that prevent enterprise-level deployment,” the DoD wrote.

The third goal, resilient cybersecurity, reiterates DoD CIO Dana Deasy’s “cyber first, cyber always" approach that he first stated in 2018.

“Every network, system, application and enterprise service must be secure by design, with cybersecurity managed throughout the acquisition lifecycle,” the strategy reads.

The strategy also states that the DoD needs to implement identity management across the enterprise so users can access authorized systems and DoD can track that access and network activity. It also will change its risk management framework to “improve effectiveness and efficiency.”

The fourth goal is geared toward developing the skills of the Pentagon’s cyber workforce. According to the strategy, the DoD is developing a new Cyber Workforce Qualification Program to “achieve a DoD-wide standard baseline of cyberspace capabilities.”

As part of the strategy, Deasy is now in charge of the Pentagon’s IT budget requests and modernization efforts. The DoD stated in the strategy that the structure will “enable continual, comprehensive departmentwide IT modernization in a common, coordinated way.”

“Combined with policy and governance changes, it will shift the department from an ‘opt-in’ approach to enterprise services,” the DoD wrote.

Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

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