Army gets its IT act together

500-day plan to serve as a road map for creating a net-centric enterprise

The Army's new 500-day information technology plan brings together several programs and initiatives and provides milestones for reaching them, according to Army and industry officials familiar with the document.

Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, the Army's chief information officer, said the plan explains "what program we are doing and why." Boutelle unveiled the "Army CIO/G-6 500-Day Plan: Delivering a Joint Net-Centric Information Enterprise" during a speech and media briefing at the Association of the U.S. Army's (AUSA) annual conference earlier this month.

The document identifies 33 acquisition, architecture, governance, strategy and portfolio management initiatives that will guide Army IT and help soldiers improve communications in combat. It also focuses on the service's IT and information management concepts and organizational changes to improve data sharing and systems integration.

"The plan is our road map for delivering a joint [network]-centric information enterprise that enables warfighter decision superiority," Boutelle said in a statement.

The document includes six goals, including developing and maintaining a secure, connected LandWarNet, the Army's voice, video and data networks that constitute the Global Information Grid.

To help meet that goal, Boutelle said his office will oversee the reconstruction of the Signal Regiment, units that operate networks on the battlefield; the development of an integrated network architecture; the acquisition of comprehensive bandwidth; the creation of the network for the Future Combat System, the Army's next-generation fighting force; and the addition of sufficient communications spectrum.

Pete Cuviello, who preceded Boutelle as the Army's CIO and is now vice president and managing director of the focused logistics enterprise at Lockheed Martin, said Army officials want their top officers to lead the charge.

"Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker is putting a lot of pressure on staff officers to put into effect implementable things with milestones attached to them," Cuviello said.

He added that the Army's 500-day IT plan wraps together many ongoing programs and initiatives. The document is part of the Army Campaign Plan that guides the service's people, forces, infrastructure and quality-of-life objectives.

"The Army put a plan together that Gen. Schoomaker can use with commanders," Cuviello said.

In the past two years, Boutelle oversaw several programs and initiatives to strengthen Army IT. They included updating battlefield communications systems, strengthening information assurance, studying the best way to buy commercial satellite communications, improving systems interoperability and devising an IT governance strategy.

Bob Guerra, a partner at Guerra, Kiviat, Flyzik and Associates, a government technology consulting company, agreed with Cuviello that Army IT leaders have started a lot of programs and initiatives and that the 500-day plan provides specific goals and timelines.

He said timing was also a factor because they wanted to issue the document during the AUSA conference, the Army's largest annual event.

Harry Raduege, former director of the Defense Information Systems Agency and commander of the Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations, devised 500-day plans in 1995 when he worked at Central Command and used them successfully until he retired this summer. He said Boutelle did not talk to him about the Army's new plan but probably implemented it to focus the organization.

Having such plans spurs action, Raduege said. "They allow you to measure progress and declare victory," he added.

Raduege said 500-day plans helped him focus employees and build confidence. He said managers usually don't know how long it will take to accomplish programs and initiatives, so 500-day plans helps them set goals and reach them.

Raduege said 500-day plans also allowed him to better understand his customers. He said the plans helped build relationships. "They let you know where you stand with them," Raduege said.

Raduege said 500-day plans also work well for military IT because leaders know they will hold a job for at least two years, so they can create timetables for projects and initiatives.

He added that IT usually undergoes a major shift every 18 months, which gives IT managers an opportunity "to a take a fresh look, check the course and make a midcourse correction if necessary."

Raduege said 500-day plans are not hard to develop. He advised military and civilian IT managers to allow six months to prepare and write them, and the final document should be able to fit in a binder no more than one-quarter inch thick.

Another benefit of his 500-day plans, Raduege said, is that they gave him a report card to show customers and bosses. He said he would meet with them prior to writing the plans to understand their needs and again afterward to show his accomplishments.

But Raduege issued one word of caution about 500-day plans. "They are not for the shy," he said. "They commit you to do something."

Focusing Army IT

Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, left, the Army's chief information officer, announced a 500-day information technology plan earlier this month. "Army CIO/G-6 500-Day Plan: Delivering a Joint Net-Centric Information Enterprise" serves as a guide to achieve an enterprise IT organization that better supports soldiers and commanders, he said. The plan explains six Army IT and information management goals.

They are:

  • Developing and enforcing an enterprise architecture to operate and manage LandWarNet.
  • Leading enterprise integration efforts to improve data, processes and applications.
  • Protecting and defending the Army's networks, systems and data.
  • Source: Office of the Army Chief Information Officer

  • Ensuring that Army IT investments increase warfighting capabilities.
  • Training and educating Army users to improve their IT and data management knowledge.
  • Creating an integrated IT and data management strategy.

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