Should DOD be taking more risks with mobility?

It’s become a common problem in the government, particularly the Defense Department: Almost as soon as a new technology is deployed, it’s made obsolete by some newer advancement in the commercial sector. And because agencies often move fairly slowly in making technology choices and getting through the procurement process, technologies are often already outmoded by the time agency employees get them.

With mounting budget pressure and fewer funds available for cutting-edge goods, technological advancement can be that much more difficult.

But it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way, according to a panel of DOD officials who spoke June 25 at an AFCEA DC event in Arlington, Va.

In fact, the fiscal constraints, combined with an increasing focus on mobile, offer a unique opportunity for being creative and taking risks, the panelists said.

“The lack of money now and budget cuts we’re experiencing are forcing a lot of thinking that hasn’t happened before because we had money. We have to think about things now and do them more purposefully,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Greg Brundidge, director of command, control, communications and warfighting integration at U.S. European Command headquarters.

While DOD is notoriously wary of risk, striking a balance between caution and gamble may be part of the answer to the question of how the department can keep up with the technological edge with fewer resources. It’s especially critical as DOD implements plans to increase mobile capabilities, which indisputably carry a number of risks, including security.

“We’ve been talking about accepting risk and mitigating risk for years, but we always fall back to the black and white. We’ve got to embrace risk acceptance and risk mitigation and get on with it,” said John Wilcox, director of communications and CIO, U.S. Special Operations Command.

It starts with determining the right risks to take – and the right reasons to take them.

“There are some folks out there who are, admittedly, still very risk-averse to some of the new technology. I believe we have to moderate risk,” said Brig. Gen. Gregory Touhill, director of command, control, communications and computer systems, U.S. Transportation Command. “It boils down to: Is it feasible, acceptable, suitable and affordable? That’s what we have to think about in inserting technologies.”

That consideration will have to start soon, as the role of mobile is growing at an exponential rate – particularly in places it hasn’t been used before.

“We see mobility as the future…not just in an administrative function, but in a warfighting function, in a [command and control] function. We need secure and non-secure capabilities, where from the garrison to the objective we can use the same device,” Wilcox said. “It all comes back to risk mitigation, risk acceptance and risk understanding. You have to know exactly how far you can push that. But mobility is the wave of the future; that’s where we’re going.”

About the Author

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

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Reader comments

Wed, Jun 27, 2012 CLN

Define obsolete! If mission needs can be met with the tech at hand or being procured in a secure and measured fashion, why the rush to keep up with the tech trend of the day?

We need a process for adopting new tech not just running to the new cool, shiny toy. Embracing technology too fast can be hazardous and should not need to come with a "cyber-TD."

Tue, Jun 26, 2012 Ben

This is common today.. but not for the last hundreds of years. For a long time warfare industries led technological advances -- not just computers, radios, and rifles, but recall the days when the Army Surplus Store had the best camping gear? Its very difficult to overcome the layers of culture and bureacracy that optimized for the now-obsolete way new technology came to exist. Its going to take a very long time to change. I think we're all for new tech fast.... but most of us don't want to lose our main competitive edge, our senstive data, in a rush toward bling.

Tue, Jun 26, 2012 Bill F.

I totally agree we really need to get with it and embrace technology. Ten years ago I could not even turn a computer on and now it's most of my job. You either learn and adpot or get run over. I prefer to lead and our country needs to make some changes or we are going to get RUN OVER! Thank you, Bill

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