Culture, policies hinder technology adoption at DOD: panel

Culture change still needed

As the technology landscape evolves at a breakneck pace in the civilian world, the Defense Department is looking to overcome its many layers of security requirements and capitalize on the mobile movement for combat use.

“How do we take the technologies that kids are using today and take that to war?” said Bruce Bennett, program executive officer, satellite communications, at the Defense Information Systems Agency. “There’s not just one answer anymore. Everything is on the table.”

Bennett, speaking as part of a panel at the Mobile Technologies symposium held in Washington by the local AFCEA chapter, pointed out that as DOD approaches the 10-year mark of the net-centricity movement, there are still challenges existing at many levels.


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“Net-centricity requires trusting peers and sharing … but that’s the antithesis of how DOD works. We need culture change,” he said.

Other challenges for extending mobile technologies into combat lie within outdated policies and archaic acquisition processes, the panel suggested.

“Our goal is to extend the desktop into the mobile environment … [but] our mobile devices don’t really meet our mission,” said Air Force Col. David Stickley, director of communications and CIO, Air National Guard. “Most of our challenges are self-imposed by policy,” including security procedures that can be counterintuitive, he said.

Col. Scott Moser, G-6 for the Army National Guard, agreed the high-level brass can be a problem for implementing cutting-edge technologies fast enough.

“As CIOs, we’ve gotten into the business of saying no, and that’s not where we want to be. We need to get into the business of saying yes,” Moser said.

He also pointed out that using BlackBerrys in the field for e-mail isn’t enough.

“How do we take new mobile technologies and make them more than just tools for e-mail?” Moser said.

In terms of acquisition, DOD – and the broader government – still struggle with overcoming the old way of doing business and buying technology.

“We’re so entrenched in the traditional acquisition mode; it can be hard to break away from the big, 10-year acquisition business model,” said Patricia Craighill, assistant director, joint planning and development office, NextGen and special adviser to the Air Force CIO office.

All three panelists called on industry to help bring the latest mobile technologies into the theater.

“Security is a responsibility across the board … whether it’s a military provider or an industry provider,” Stickley said.

Even beyond security, DOD wants to incorporate new ideas to get better mobility to troops on the ground, the panelists said.

“There’s not just one answer anymore – it’s about hybrid solutions. Everything is on the table,” Bennett said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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Reader comments

Mon, Mar 21, 2011 Ret COL

I completely agree with the comment posted. I've been hearing "we need a culture change" for years -- but how? when? It's easy to say, not so easy to implement. Commenter is correct - as long as people's jobs are on the line, it won't happen. Do we wait for experimentation organizations to figure it out? Most technology changes I've seen in the military happen at unit level when some gutsy Signal Captain or Major "just does it" to satisfy his Infantry boss breathing down his neck, and the Army finally realizes the warfighters NEED these capabilities.

Fri, Mar 18, 2011

This article highlights the problems with DoD technology implementation in more ways than one. So many of the quotes are about "everything is on the table..." but until policy is changed so the working level staff does not get dinged for trying out the new technologies, staff will remain hesitant to put their jobs or network accreditations on the line. Ultimate approval comes from the DAA and until that official is willing to put his/her name on the line for using these products, technologies will lag.

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