Budget Crunch Hits Navy Info-Tech Programs

By Grace Jean
The Navy's information technology enterprise will see budget cuts of up to 25 percent over the next five years. The reductions mostly will affect business systems, not the tactical networks that are used by deployed forces.
With the Pentagon under pressure to cut spending, information technology budgets will be targeted across the military services. The Defense Department runs about 770 data centers, 67,000 servers and 15,000 networks, said Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert. The Pentagon requested a total of $38 billion for IT programs in the 2012 budget.
With some 750,000 users making 1 billion connections to the Internet daily, the Navy runs the department’s largest IT enterprise. It spends nearly $250 million annually in IT maintenance alone, officials said.
Those numbers are reflective of years of ad-hoc IT planning and operations, Greenert said June 9 at a naval IT industry conference in Vienna, Va. Networks must be consolidated in order to cut costs and gain efficiency, he added.
But achieving the 25 percent reduction will require an overhaul in IT programs, said Terry Halvorsen, the Navy’s chief information officer. “You don’t get 25 percent by doing what you’re doing more efficiently,” he said. “You have to change the model of the way we’re doing business.”
Halvorsen said that the 25 percent target was going to be discussed in a meeting with Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on June 10. “The number is big,” he said, but necessary to protect the Navy’s shipbuilding and aircraft procurement accounts as well as the Marine Corps’ modernization and recapitalization investments.
“There’s not enough money in what we do in IT" to shore up every major weapon system's budget, Halvorsen said. “But we can buy some time for senior leadership by doing some things differently, to save some money quickly, to give them some time to get those hard reviews done so they can figure out what the right infrastructure is.”
Officials did not mention specific programs that might be targeted for termination. Any new program starts, however, will be closely scrutinized to ensure they have realistic cost estimates. There are two ways for industry to get in on the action, said Halvorsen. “You can show us how to do something we’re doing today for a lot less money — and that may mean taking business from somebody else we’re spending money with,” he said. “Or you can help us figure out what are we not going to do anymore.”
Most of the Navy's IT funds are spent on unclassified networks, so they will be under greater pressure to reduce costs, Halvorsen said. Some business IT services, such as email, may be outsourced. If companies can provide sailors, marines and civilian naval workers with email services and storage capability at military security standards, that could possibly save money and increase access to the Navy’s networks.
Officials also will consider public-private ventures for data storage, following a model similar to what the Navy is doing for housing. A contractor might be permitted to build a data center on government property, with the Navy overseeing the physical and virtual security of the facility. “We need to explore that,” said Halvorsen. 
Officials also are looking to cloud computing for IT savings. About three-quarters of all Navy network users conduct 90 percent of their business on traditional office suite products. If those applications were delivered from cloud-based services, then there could be substantial savings from simply not having to conduct security testing on each individual PC.
Halvorsen said that program managers would be willing to entertain these and other ideas as long as they are presented in a way that helps Navy officials better understand the costs and trade-offs.

Topics: Infotech

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