recommended reading

DISA could take on bigger IT role at Defense

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has carved out what appears to be a key -- if still not fully defined -- role for the Defense Information Systems Agency in his ambitious plan to consolidate the management of the Defense Department's information technology management and infrastructure, said analysts who closely follow federal information technology policy.

Gates announced on Monday sweeping reforms in how the Pentagon will conduct business in an effort to save $100 billion during the next five years. The changes include eliminating the policymaking Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense Networks and Information Integration, but appear to strengthen the role of the chief information officer, some analysts said.

In a Pentagon press briefing on Monday Gates said a decentralized IT infrastructure at Defense deprived the department of economies of scale. He directed the department to consolidate its IT assets to achieve "savings in acquisition, sustainment and manpower costs."

"This action will allow the increased use by the department of common functions and improve our ability to defend Defense networks against growing cyber threats," Gates said.

Defense requested $36.5 billion in fiscal 2011 for IT, a 6.4 percent increase from its fiscal 2010 budget of $34.3 billion.

To oversee IT, Gates said he plans to stand up a stronger Office of the Chief Information Officer, "and under its umbrella, responsibility for daily operations will be assigned to the Defense Information Systems Agency."

"A refashioned Defense Information Systems Agency will perform the department's CIO function," noted a Pentagon press release issued on Monday.

In a briefing after Gates' press conference, Christine Fox, director of Defense Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, made it clear the Pentagon plans to merge its CIO function with DISA. In slides from the her presentation, Fox said Defense plans to move the CIO to DISA and combine command-and-control functions from the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Joint Forces Command, which is slated for dissolution; and ASD/NII into the new CIO/DISA organization.

Under the leadership of its director, Army Lt. Gen. Carroll Pollett, DISA is well-positioned to take on a larger role in management of Defense-wide IT systems, said John Weiler, executive director of the Interoperabilty Clearinghouse, a nonprofit group in Alexandria, Va., that focuses on development of federal enterprise information systems.

John Garing, a consultant with Suss Consulting who retired as DISA's chief information officer earlier this year, said the agency has a proven track record in consolidating assets, reducing the number of data centers it operates from 50 to about 14. DISA also has experience in cloud computing projects and could develop a virtual cloud to serve all Defense. He also said the Pentagon needs to further clarify and define the roles of DISA and the CIO.

Warren Suss, head of the consulting firm, said he believed Gates has "broadly expanded DISA's operational role. . . . This is a huge change for DISA."

John Grimes, the last person to hold the Defense CIO position, having retired in April 2009, said he was still figuring out the new Defense IT policy, which Gates only broadly outlined.

Defense needs a policy leader to manage spectrum negotiations during the next several months, Grimes said. Defense is trying to protect encroachment on its vital radio frequencies by the Federal Communications Commission, which has proposed allocating spectrum that Defense uses for space systems and infantry radios to commercial carriers.

Grimes said he believed the Pentagon did not conduct a thorough analysis of the consequences of shutting down ASD/NII, which he said could serve as an independent check on IT acquisitions that Gates said the central Defense acquisition, technology and logistics organization will handle.

Phil Bond, president and chief executive officer of TechAmerica, a technology industry trade group in Washington, said eliminating ASD/NII and the command-and-control functions now performed by the Joint Staff will result in a weaker, not stronger, Defense CIO.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    View
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.