Army Seeks to Simplify, Create More Interoperability for Information Systems
Common requirements and shared services will be used for cost savings, and this is reflected in a bold cut to the Army’s proposed IT budget of $7.49 billion for fiscal year 2015. The request is more than $700 million lower than fiscal year 2014 for development, modernization and enhancement, which means the service will focus much less on new systems.
The strategy behind this budget cut includes collapsing and simplifying networks and retiring legacy systems. With fewer maintenance-heavy networks and legacy systems, the Army aims to free up funds for other efforts. An enterprise approach to IT modernization in business systems, cyber security and tactical networks will allow the Army to make its systems more user-friendly.
The service is seeking to operate as one enterprise and make the architecture better able to share data.
Shared services are a top priority. To increase operational cost savings, the Army plans to use the Defense Information Systems Agency to provide most of its shared services. The Army has already moved over to DISA for enterprise email. DISA also will be used for unified capabilities and data center consolidation.
Unified capabilities include voice over IP communications and video teleconferencing. DISA, the Army and the Air Force already have put out two requests for information to vet commercial solutions. They are currently working on how to move data out of Army data centers and into private clouds securely. This is causing a bit of a delay with procurements. Government officials said the request for proposals for unified capabilities will likely not happen until fiscal year 2015.
DISA will be used to host Army data in core data centers. The Army data center consolidation effort has closed upwards of 285 centers, exceeding its goals. Army officials said these efforts might slow down as the service focuses more on applications rationalization before moving data to DISA core data centers. In the future, it’s going to be more about optimization and less about consolidation.
The Army’s partnership with DISA and the Air Force is also part of the joint information environment concept. This is a major driver of all these consolidation, standardization and convergence projects — from shared services to security and network modernization.
Cyber security will be part of nearly every single Army IT requirement, and will be a more protected area in budgets due to its importance. The Army’s cyber security efforts are centered on reducing the attack surface by collapsing networks, identity management, protecting its data, and increasing awareness of its networks via continuous monitoring. The service also is consolidating top-level security architecture via the joint regional security stack effort, where it has partnered with the Air Force and DISA.
The Army’s plans to simplify its networks include adding plug-and-play capabilities to make systems more user-friendly. This move to more commonly used systems, however, also means greater vulnerability. Continuous monitoring, identity and access management, and data protection will be critical technologies in the service’s security strategy as it consolidates networks and architectures.
Tactical network simplification will unify the Army’s enterprise operations, primarily with the use of multi-protocol label switching. This program expands network bandwidth for the Army, allowing it to be less installation-focused and enabling more data to be moved to the cloud.
Simplification will be a massive job. As the tactical network was built up, information stovepipes were created. The focus in the future will be breaking them down. To save money, the Army will use less proprietary equipment. By moving to more commonly used systems, the Army wants to lower the overall number of tools required to make networks easier to use and manage while reducing costs.
Simplifying systems has made the contemporary operations environment a high priority for the Army. The COE is a set of computing standards that helps field interoperable software to soldiers. Once largely warfighter focused, the goal now for COE is to integrate it further with the Army enterprise.
Simplifying existing network systems will make the computing environment more user-friendly, but carries with it a much greater need to be vigilant about cyber security.
The other branches of the military certainly will be watching the Army’s efforts closely. Success in this simplification strategy may be a bellwether for cost savings across the Defense Department.
Stephanie Meloni is senior analyst for immixGroup.