The Army's Gary Winkler: Master of change

Winkler explains why change is a natural state — and an imperative — for the service’s information technology portfolio.

Even by Army standards, for which multibillion-dollar programs are nothing special, the service’s $8 billion modernization of core business systems is a massive undertaking that involves hundreds of systems and locations around the world.

But if the efforts are successful, Army decision-makers will have unprecedented visibility into and across key operations, which will enable them to better manage costs and link budgets to program execution.

Gary Winkler, program executive officer for enterprise information systems at Fort Belvoir, Va., is responsible for managing Defense Department and Army business and combat service support systems, in addition to the Army's communications and computer infrastructure.

He spoke recently with Barry Rosenberg, contributing editor to Federal Computer Week's sister publication, Defense Systems, about progress in that multipronged modernization effort and a number of other initiatives that reflect the increasingly important role IT plays in today’s Army.

On the bevy of new enterprise resource planning programs that went live for the first time this year…

Winkler: These programs are our major enterprise resource planning efforts representing a projected $8 billion Army investment over their life cycles. The go-live milestones are very important for each of the programs so that our old, inefficient business systems can be retired. Equally important, though, is that the Army is adopting new, more efficient business processes to leverage the integrated end-to-end capabilities inherent in the commercial enterprise resource planning package we are using for these systems. Also, in parallel to these go-live activities, we are also working to better integrate these programs for the future since they use the same underlying technology and products.

The General Fund Enterprise Business System received Milestone C approval in June to enter its first official operational test and evaluation. In April, the test baseline went live at the test sites for the 1,500 users that will be involved in the test. Following a successful test in the summer months, the Army will seek [Office of the Secretary of Defense] approval to field the system for expanded operational use beyond the test sites.

We anticipate [the system] to be fully deployed Army-wide by 2012. At that time, [it] will have more than 79,000 users at 200 sites around the world and will manage $140 billion in spending by the active Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve.

The system will standardize transactional input and business processes across the Army to enable cost management activities; provide accurate, reliable and real-time financial and real property data; and tie budgets to execution. When fully deployed, [it] will subsume more than 80 legacy systems, and for the first time, the Army will have a single authoritative source for data for its entire general fund.

The Logistics Modernization Program went live on May 14 to 5,000 new users at the Corpus Christi Army Depot, Letterkenny Army Depot, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command, and more than 1,000 users worldwide through the Army Materiel Command National Maintenance Program. This latest deployment actually marks [the program’s] second release to the Army, as it had previously been deployed in 2003 to the Tobyhanna Army Depot.

Currently, the program manages a multibillion-dollar inventory with tens of thousands of vendors and also interfaces with more than 70 DOD systems. By the end of 2011, [it] will operate in more than 1,000 locations with more than 17,000 users worldwide. Preparations are ongoing as the [program] enterprise shifts its focus to site assessment, training and education for its third deployment scheduled in October 2010 to the Tank Automotive and Armaments Command, Joint Munitions and Lethality, and the Army Sustainment Command.

The Global Combat Support System—Army recently completed an operational assessment of an early prototype for supply support activity functions at the National Training Center in California. Results have exceeded expectations from both the project manager’s and soldiers' perspectives. Logistics operational performance improved across the board in some of the most important supply management categories. For example, repairables decreased from nearly $40 million to under $1 million, and user satisfaction increased 5 percentage points to 91 percent.

[The system] gives users better visibility of resources and automated processes that add up to greatly improved warehouse management, responsiveness and efficiencies. Currently, the PM is developing Release 1.1, which will add property accountability, maintenance, unit supply and tactical logistics financial functionality and will deploy to the NTC in 2010.

The Army Enterprise Systems Integration Program is deploying hub services, business intelligence and master data management capabilities in concert with the General Fund Enterprise Business System and Global Combat Support System—Army deployment schedules. These services reduce the number of point-to-point interfaces for the systems, provide master data services to streamline the data needs of the systems, and facilitate management reporting and analysis of the data through business intelligence capabilities.

The Army Enterprise Systems Integration Program not only has the product management and delivery role as described above but also has the management role to work the integration of the Army’s enterprise resource planning systems.

The Defense Integrated Military Human Resource System is a program in transition, with [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] delivering a core capability of common services to the military departments in September, and then the military departments will take that core and determine how to best use it to meet specific Title X requirements. Upon delivery of the core this September, the Army will develop an acquisition strategy that will include cost, schedules and performance guidelines. There is no approved implementation date at this time. However, the Army needs the capabilities that the program is to deliver.

On the status of the Next Generation Automated Biometrics Identification System, which is hoped to be the authoritative biometric repository for the Army…

Winkler: The Next Generation Automated Biometric Identification System went live on Jan. 29, one day ahead of a very aggressive schedule. Kudos go to the PM and his team for that success. Immediately after going live, the system provided matches that the old system missed, so it is making a huge difference to our national security and tactical efforts already.

[The system] significantly expands our ability to use biometric data to verify the identity of individuals. It stores and matches multimodal biometric information including fingerprints, palm prints, iris and facial recognition. The new system transmits data 14 to 28 times faster than its predecessor, and the matching algorithms are faster and more accurate, providing a multimodal biometric fusion capability, which gives us more, and higher fidelity, matches.

[The system] was designed to be scalable so that we can incorporate additional modality matching capabilities in the future, such as DNA. The Army is working with [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] and the other services to implement improvements necessary to meet user requirements as they continue to realize more ways to take advantage of this new capability for their missions.

On steps to increase the capacity of the Army Knowledge Online portal…

Winkler: In 2008, we implemented several upgrades to servers and storage to increase the capacity of Army Knowledge Online/Defense Knowledge Online to 2.5 million users. We currently have 2.2 million users, including over 150,000 [Defense Knowledge Online] users. Twice this year, we hit a million log-ins in a single day. Last August, we achieved the billionth log-in.

Based on projected growth rates, we anticipate growth to as many as 3.5 million users by the end of 2011, and expansion plans are in place to handle that increased load.

In the next few months, we will be implementing several system enhancements, including a business process management capability so user organizations can do more business functions and operations via AKO. We will also implement a new search engine that will enable users to refine searches. And finally, we are enabling an AKO mobile capability that will allow users to securely access AKO services and data on their mobile devices.

On the recently concluded Network Service Center Operational Validation exercise, a test of the Army’s ability to update and retain warfighting data and applications as units travel from one location to another…

Winkler: We are definitely pleased with the build out of the [Secret IP Router Network] capability at the Area Processing Center in Grafenwoehr, Germany. In roughly seven months, a team of acquisition, operational and industry professionals engineered, procured, built, tested and validated the first implementation of the Global Network Enterprise Construct (GNEC). The team delivered technical capabilities and identified improvements for future GNEC execution.

The 5th Signal Command was also pleased with the resulting Area Processing Center SIPR capability tested with them during the operational validation portion of the Austere Challenge Exercise. Through a simulated deployment of the 18th Fires Brigade out of Fort Bragg, N.C., the [Network Service Center] seamlessly transferred all of the 18th's data, information and services from their home station into a virtual deployed environment. Once they hit the ground and plugged into the network, they were able to immediately enter the fight with the same systems and information that they had trained on at their home base. In the past, units would enter a deployed environment and have to operate on a different network with different applications, which caused a learning curve and delay in that unit's effectiveness.

On the user’s side, the 5th Signal Command came away with several lessons learned dealing with manpower, training and organizational issues to optimally leverage this new capability. On the technical side, there were some lessons learned dealing with data and application replication and virtualization, bandwidth utilization and some other technical refinements to make this capability more seamless for the end-users.

Our technical challenges remain trying to standardize our GNEC environment, configuration and toolset. Our existing Area Processing Centers within GNEC are not all configured identically, nor optimized to operate in an integrated fashion. We will be working on that for the near-term and will take feedback from the operational validation and similar activities into account when making design and product decisions for the final, objective GNEC design.