What's Brewin: DISA's New Gig

Everyone is doing the Web 2.0 thing. But the Defense Information Systems Agency plans to take it a step further with its Global Information Grid, the network that serves Defense Department users worldwide with voice, video and data connections. The agency plans to kick off GIG 2.0 soon, I'm told.

Not much is known at this stage about GIG 2.0. There is some speculation that DISA will use it as the platform for Web 2.0 services and applications. This may amount to a formal structure for the net-centric services push started by former DISA Director Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, who retired last month. It seems DISA plans to use a request for information for GIG Core Enterprise Services Architecture posted last month to gather industry input on what the new GIG should look like.

Bernie Skoch, a retired Air Force general who did a tour at DISA and now works as a consultant with Suss Consulting, speculated DISA will use GIG 2.0 to tap into collaborative applications under development by the Internet 2 consortium. Internet 2 applications definitely fall into areas of key interest to DISA and Defense in general, including advanced voice over IP, rich multi-media collaboration and geospatial applications.

Vendors are scrambling to get more information on GIG 2.0, and I expect it to be a hot topic of conversation at the DISA Industry Day on Aug. 8 at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. training center in Arlington, Va.

I have an interview with DISA Chief Information Officer John Garing (who now wears a dual hat as acting deputy director, I hear) and David Mihelcic, the agency's chief technology officer, this month on GIG 2.0. I hope they have already ordered coffee cups with the GIG 2.0 logo so I can bring one home to "What's Brewin'" HQ.

Here Come the Army Cyber Warriors

Army CIO Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson does not plan to let the Air Force have the only cadre of uniformed cyber warriors. Sorenson said at the annual Army IT Day Conference held by the AFCEA Northern Virginia chapter last month that the Army plans to develop a Cyber Career Field, but provided few other details.

I hope that the Army does not follow the Air Force path and rebrand signal specialists (who trace their heritage to the signal flags developed by Maj. Albert Meyer, an Army doctor who became the service's first signal officer in 1860) as cyber-somethings but leave them with the signal designation and the crossed flags branch insignia. Maybe the Institute for Heraldry can come up with a cyber-themed insignia that honors the past while looking toward the future.

Where Does the Money Go?

You know the drill. You start out Monday with $50 in your wallet. You buy a newspaper here, a cup of coffee there. You throw in a couple of sandwiches, and by Thursday, all you have left is some change.

That's the same kind of problem the Veterans Affairs Department seems to face, the Government Accountability Office informed a House panel recently. GAO told members of a House VA subcommittee that the Veterans Health Administration spent $9.6 billion in 2007 under its "miscellaneous obligations" account, with little or no accountability.

GAO said the money covered some 132,000 miscellaneous payments, many of them fee-for-service payments to thousands of private doctors who treat veterans. VHA said negotiating contracts with each of those docs would be "a difficult task for its contracting staff." Hmm. Medicare seems to have figured this out.

A number of the other items covered by the miscellaneous obligations account appear to be quite miscellaneous. That includes vehicles, office furniture, computers and human livers for transplant ($141,000 for livers at the Pittsburgh VA hospital).

VA told GAO that it used the miscellaneous account to simplify procurements in the absence of pre-existing contracts. It boggles the mind that VHA has to do a one-off to buy office furniture, when the General Services Administration runs the National Furniture Center, which is available to all federal agencies.

Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., a member of the VA committee, said the "fact that the VA is unable to identify how billions of dollars are being spent underscores the urgent need to review and refine a process that is clearly broken."

Good thing VA - probably by sheer coincidence - is planning an overhaul of its financial systems (see next item).

VA's Timely Upgrade

On Aug. 1, VA announced it had issued two requests for proposals to upgrade its financial and asset management systems.

VA said the Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise Program will help it standardize business practices and modernize information technology that supports financial and asset management.

In what seemed to be an answer to GAO complaints (see previous item), VA Secretary James Peake said FLITE "makes good business sense because it will allow VA to do a better job of managing its resources."

Good timing.