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Defense IT Spending on Downslope 

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By Lloyd McCoy 



With the defense budget under growing pressure, the Pentagon’s chief information officer and budget leaders are looking at information technology as a way to do more with less.

Funding for IT is being reduced by 2 percent in fiscal year 2015 from a year ago. Interoperability, infrastructure consolidation and cyber improvements are topping the Defense Department IT wish lists.

The five biggest Defense Department info-tech budgets for 2015 include:

• Air Force: $6.41 billion (a 2.7 percent increase from 2014)
• Defense Health Agency: $2.02 billion (a 9.1 percent increase from 2014)
• Army: $7.91 billion (down 7.3 percent from 2014)
• Navy/Marine Corps: $6.73 billion (a decrease of 6.8 percent from 2014)
• Defense Information Systems Agency: $3.13 billion (down 4.8 percent from 2014)

Industry should not panic, however. The reductions in the Pentagon’s information technology budget reflect successful efficiency efforts within the department more so than outright cutbacks. 

The Army is experiencing the most visible, if not the biggest, impact of the post-war drawdown. Tomorrow’s Army will be smaller and more U.S. based. Units will expect to train with cutting edge technologies. As a result, the Army’s IT priorities for 2015 emphasize network modernization.

The Army is looking for technologies that are more mature and less risky, have architectures that allow for easy procurement or fielding, and can also be sustained while keeping in mind timeline and financial constraints. Planned Army IT activities for 2015 include: consolidating security stacks and increasing bandwidth at Army installations; implementing a “single sign-on” capability for systems and data; improving controlled access to data stores; increasing visibility of the Army’s IT assets; making communication available anywhere and anytime through a single device; and centralizing network operations.

With a fleet that will be shrinking, the Navy and Marine Corps are looking at ways to maximize their punch by increasing interoperability among vessels and strengthening cyber security. The Navy’s biggest projects over the next fiscal year will be consolidating its land- and afloat-based networks. 

As the Navy and Marine Corps rebalance their strategy toward the Pacific theater, they are centering their IT acquisition strategy on four goals: cost avoidance; protecting sensitive information; fielding a capable cyber space workforce; and improving transparency of IT investments.

Planned activities include: continuing consolidation of data centers; reducing redundancy of systems and application; expanding “zero client computing” among users of the Navy’s intranet; expanding use of commercial and private cloud service providers; developing an enterprise level continuous monitoring capability; and conducting a Marine Corps bring-your-own-device pilot program.

The Air Force is the only military department that will see its IT budget increase. Officials see such acquisitions as key to their efforts to adapt to an era of hard budget choices. Among those choices is the retirement of some of its platforms, in exchange for protection of key fighter, bomber and tanker programs. These programs come with heavy IT investments, focusing on greater interoperability, strengthened cyber defense and offense and improved logistics.

The Air Force’s planned 2015 IT activities include: substituting the canceled Expeditionary Combat Support System with smaller-scale logistics efforts; closing 79 data centers by 2015; replacing older cryptographic capabilities within the Air Force nuclear enterprise; improving cyber security administration and visibility capabilities within the Air Force network; and upgrading the Air Force personnel and pay system using a web-based commercial solution.

The Defense Health Agency — formerly the Military Health System — enters its second fiscal year of existence. It will continue to consolidate health IT management and infrastructure services under one roof. 

There are new efforts to create one interoperable medical record that will transition seamlessly from the Defense Department to the Department of Veterans Affairs as service members go from active duty to veteran status. The office coordinating this effort is being rebranded as the Defense Medical Information Exchange. A true integrated electronic health record between VA and Defense remains several years away, however. The immediate focus is on replacing the Pentagon’s legacy health systems with one consolidated database.

The Defense Health Agency’s planned IT activities for 2015 include: upgrading existing interoperability mechanisms that transfer data between Defense and VA; increasing the amount of data shared between both departments; issuing a final request for proposals and contract award for an electronic health records systems replacement; exploring options for developing a version of the existing system that can run on a virtual platform; and funding predictive analytics to study health and demographic data.

The Defense Information Systems Agency is positioning itself to accommodate a leaner but more connected military. It has been expanding consolidation in the areas of information sharing, virtualization and storage requirements. DISA is also working with the Army and Air Force to increase bandwidth at bases and posts. 

In 2015, DISA will be working toward the second phase of the Joint Information Environment, a concept that will bring all networks together under a shared security architecture.

Other planned IT activities include: upgrading voice, video and email to Internet-based services; testing and evaluating classified and additional commercial mobile devices; implementing security measures for data center in Europe; refreshing technology and hardware of DISA’s computer network defense analytic cloud (Acropolis); and expanding transfer of data across multiple classification levels.

This IT activity will go a long way to further the Defense Department’s agenda to cut cost and improve efficiency.

Lloyd McCoy is market intelligence consultant with immixGroup. He can be reached at Lloyd_Mccoy@immixgroup.com.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock
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