Supporting more than 1.4 million network users,Lieutenant General Robert S. Ferrell- Army CIO, recently unveiled an aggressive IT strategy encompassing IT modernization initiatives spanning to 2021 to enable the warfighter to fight and deploy at any time, from anywhere well into the future. Referenced as the “Army Network Campaign Plan,” the Army’s IT strategy is set to deliver on five broad goals:
- Align signals capabilities to support all Army missions.
- Boost cybersecurity capabilities, in part by establishing a series of cyber protection teams.
- Strengthen the Army’s underlying IT infrastructure by increasing throughput, among other measures.
- Improve use of IT at the edge of Army networks by taking advantage of tools such as data consolidation and voice over IP.
- Strengthen network operations by, for example, “flattening” the IT architecture to give network operators greater visibility.
Speaking to industry at AFCEA NOVA’s Army IT Day, Lieutenant General Ferrell highlighted several example programs within the plan providing near-term, mid-term and long-term capabilities, but he kicked off the discussion by the clear direction being provided by strategic leaders such as the President and General Odierno. Having these leaders calling for cyber security and integration, the Army isn’t taking this message lightly and is ensuring that integration capabilities are continually enhanced to enable the connection of the growing number of data sources so that all data can be leveraged at a moment’s notice and by keeping security as a priority across all IT investments.
In addressing the need for increased throughput, Lieutenant General Ferrell also reviewed their recent application rationalization pilot project where redundant and outdated applications are eliminated at the Redstone Core Data Center. A cornerstone to their overall data center consolidation efforts, Ferrell dubbed their approach at Redstone “Modernize, Move, Kill, Sustain.” This approach is set to be applied at every Army data center; not only helping the Army to reduce unnecessary redundancy and helping them make progress on their movement to the cloud, but also allowing them to shrink their attack surface by eliminating less secure legacy systems.
Looking to industry for support, Army is eager to quickly deploy more intelligence and automated systems, cloud offerings, and data synchronization capabilities. To further their cyber security posture, the Army, partnered with U.S. Cyber Command and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), to run pilot programs with IBM and Amazon to gauge the readiness of those platforms outside of the military’s basic cloud requirements for highly sensitive information. According to Chief Warrant Officer Five, Ricardo Pina, Army CIO/G6 Chief Technology Officer, in addition to IBM and Amazon, Microsoft isn’t lagging too far behind in being able to meet the military’s cloud security requirements, as well. If these pilot programs go well, the number of approved vendors for cloud services will increase.
As a result of newly adopted cloud services and updated infrastructure, the Army foresees a burgeoning of the cyber career field. However, while there is a need to train the existing cyber workforce, there is also a plan for growing the number of cyber professionals in the Army, as well as other military branches. With initial infrastructure changes, there will be over 1100 positions opening which is already expected to expand to 3000, civilian and military positions, according to Lieutenant General Ferrell.
This year’s Army IT Day was inundated with hope and strategy for improved and increased use of cloud services, a new career field in cyber security and a call for increased agility and readiness in the face of modernization. Echoing Lieutenant General Ferrell’s key points, Major General Gary Cheek, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7 further outlined the challenges with an overall leaner Army, stressing that their IT strategy must enhance their throughput, enough to ensure the global responsiveness that is required to support the warfighter.
While not an easy task, by redesigning various processes to sustain readiness such as eliminating “reset” periods post deployment, requirements to reorganize HQ resources or improvements to mission command platforms to be more agile, the Army is strategically committed to doing what’s necessary to be a strong Army now and into the future.
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Allison Gershon is an Account Executive at Software AG Government Solutions responsible for helping her Air Force and Army clients solve complex IT challenges around integration, service-oriented architecture, big data & analytics and business process management. Allison also serves on the committee for AFCEA NOVA’s Army IT Day.