Tech infrastructure gets $600M overhaul

The Defense Mapping Agency plans to spend more than $600 million over the next eight years overhauling its technology infrastructure to meet the demands of the Defense Department's changing mission.

After announcing an agency restructuring last June, DMA stepped up its modernization initiative in February when it launched the first of two procurements to help migrate its Digital Production System (DPS) for generating maps and charts to an open-systems environment.

More than just a technology refresh, the DPS migration will allow DMA to focus less on producing disposable hard-copy maps and more on delivering near-real time mapping data, said Col. Trey Obering, deputy director of acquisition and technology at DMA.

"We are transforming our production line from a mass-production, customized hardware and software environment to an open-systems environment that is more capable of tailored production and geospatial information-based production," Obering said.

DMA is now looking for a vendor to help manage DPS during the transition.

The Consolidated System Engineering Support contract is expected to be worth $50 million to $100 million over five years, according to Federal Sources Inc., with bidders expected to include Logicon Inc., TASC Inc., TRW Inc. and Unisys Corp.

In spring of 1997 the agency will launch the keystone procurement—an estimated $500 million program to manage the actual DPS migration.

The task will not be easy. The existing DPS system, developed by five contractors, includes some 7.5 million lines of code written in seven or eight programming languages and running on 1,000 customized workstations with a half-dozen different operating systems.

DPS might be described as a pipe—one that converts geographic data input at the front end into maps and charts at the back end. In its current configuration, DPS is a fairly rigid system designed to produce a high volume of well-defined products.

That mass-production mentality reflects DMA's role during the Cold War, where the agency was focused on generating map after map of the Sino-Soviet area, Obering said.

Quick Turnaround

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, DOD has taken on a diverse series of short-term missions, such as the peace-keeping initiatives in Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia. DMA, in turn, needs to generate a more diverse set of products and often in very short order.

Functionally, DMA's goal is to make its technology more "forward deployable" in DOD operations.

DMA aims ultimately to give users more of a role in defining and generating mapping products. In conjunction with DPS migration, DMA is developing its Global Geospatial Information Services (GGIS) initiative, which will build a large operational data warehouse and provide end users with tools with which to extract information in a variety of shapes and forms.

The agency is planning for a GGIS procurement later this year that is expected to be worth as much as $100 million.

DMA expects the GGIS model—a far cry from today's production pipeline—will improve the quality of the data. "You are trying to provide as much information as possible that is as current and as accurate as possible," Obering said.

That capability will also expand the type of information DMA can provide. For example, a road map has a short shelf life in such areas as Bosnia, where the conditions change constantly. If users have access to updated information on a regular basis, such a map becomes a more valuable tool.

DMA has already restructured its organization to be more responsive by stripping out layers of bureaucracy between DMA service providers and DOD customers. With DPS migration and GGIS it is restructuring its technology infrastructure to a similar end.

"What DMA did was truly significant from the viewpoint of totally re-engineering their operation," said Geoff Gardner, a member of an advisory task board for DMA and the president of Geoff Gardner Group Inc., Arlington, Va.

An industry vendor agreed. "You want to improve the process—the way information is tasked into information systems, the speed with which it can be analyzed and the speed of dissemination to the guys who can really use it," the vendor said.

Later this year DMA is slated to merge with a number of intelligence operations as part of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA). However, Obering does not expect this event to derail DMA's migration strategy.

Whether from NIMA or DMA, DOD still requires "forward-deployed customer support with a robust data engine," Obering said. "The scope of what we provide may change, but the basic philosophy and strategy will not."

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