Defense IT

DISA's Bennett preaches COTS and consolidation

David Bennett

DISA CIO David Bennett wants to see a cultural shift to standard solutions.

David Bennett, CIO of the Defense Information Systems Agency, has declared war on "box huggers."

Bennett has the job of moving Defense Department customers to enterprise wide services, including the dot-mil email system that currently supports 1.6 million users on an unclassified network and they're also leading the effort to supply cloud services. But in his experience, attachment to physical products is hard to shake.

"Everybody has this perspective that the only way I can get the capability is if I build it myself, if I have the box sitting under my desk and the only way you're going to get that box out from under my desk is to tear it out of my hands when I'm dead," Bennett said at an industry event in Washington, D.C., hosted by FedScoop.

Bennett is on a mission to "shut down all these local mom and pop solutions that are popping up everywhere." Moving to enterprise solutions not only saves money on software, but allows individual business units to allocate IT support staff to other functions.

The big cultural shift, apart from giving up the box, is moving to standard solutions, Bennett said. "We can't afford to do one-off scenarios any more," he said. IT professionals have to resist the idea of "bolting on" features to enterprise solutions to satisfy a few end-user requests. "Standardization is a viable way to give the common environment that everyone should be able to leverage, because the one-off scenarios are what cost you time and money, not only to develop it but also to maintain it," Bennett said.

In words that will give comfort to vendors, Bennett said that in a time of shrinking budgets it is important for end users -- at least on the business side of DOD -- to adapt the way they do business to standards contained in commercial off-the-shelf solutions (COTS).

"The end users will say, 'I can't use that standard because my business processes don't support that. ' My perspective is: get over it," Bennett said. His advice is to see what a commercial solution can do out of the box, without any modification or customization. "That step alone saves huge amounts of time and energy."

Echoing remarks made at a DISA Industry Day, Bennett called for more unified capabilities in commercial solutions that not only supply new features but also replace expensive old requirements. One example is unified communications, which allows users to get rid of their desktop telephone and make voice calls over IP using software. In the same vein, Bennett is looking forward to completing the move to virtual desktop, to achieve cost savings on security and hardware.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is FCW's senior staff writer, and covers Congress, health IT and governmentwide IT policy. Connect with him on Twitter: @thisismaz.

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Thu, Aug 28, 2014

Todd Parks recently said, "...But the federal government’s IT mentality is still rooted in caution, as if the digital transformation that has changed our lives is to be regarded with the utmost suspicion. It favors security over experimentation and adherence to bureaucratic procedure over agile problem-solving." And it would appear by the comments made by David Bennett that he is the poster boy for bureaucracy.

Fri, Aug 22, 2014 RonW

Misleading title, most phone and computer services are COTS as far as I can tell. I thought he was talking about the rest of the story, the hardware that is being built with COTS parts. In a three year design project, we (the government) had to redesign/recertify two major parts three times, a common part once, and now that the hardware is 75% deployed, two of the parts are in obsolescence and a third is being talked about obsolescence. Oh, and because it is COTS, and third party at that, we have no data, and there are only five electronic modules/cards inside. How do you support the warfighter with parts (lack of?) that are no longer supported before it is even fully fielded? At least in the non-COTS days, the Government had data, could often build the part they need or redesign for the new missions. much of COTS is, "tough, our way or no way".

Fri, Aug 22, 2014 jpf

While I agree utilizing COTS, vitualizing, etc is a great idea and should be done as much as possible, I have also seen where trying to implement a COTS product has ultimately cost the govt 4 times more than custom code. And for someone to say "get over it", I think is a very poor manager and should be fired. How about a little professionalism here!

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above