For Perry, IT is a day at the beach

Some folks like to bring a stack of page-turning books to the beach to escape the office grind. Not Frank Perry the Defense Information Systems Agency's point man for integration engineering and interoperability he packs a pile of technical tomes.

Perry DISA's technical director for engineering and interoperability - as well as technical director for the Joint Interoperability Engineering Organization (JIEO) - spent this summer's vacation at Kitty Hawk N.C. reading up on object computing. Last year he used his vacation to bone up on public key cryptography.While some might think this an odd choice of vacation reading material Perry believes it fits well with his background and interests not to mention his job.

As DISA's technical director Perry spends his time deep in the guts of projects that the agency leadership believes will bring order out of the chaos of the legacy systems it inherited as well as provide a common computing platform for both command and control and logistics systems.

DISA chief Lt. Gen. Al Edmonds likes to use a graphic that shows development of the Defense Information Infrastructure (DII) as an architectural rendering built on common building blocks. In many ways Perry has emerged as the agency's master bricklayer. Edmonds has the architectural vision but it is Perry's job to ensure that the DII building blocks - including the Common Operating Environment (COE) the Global Command and Control System (GCCS) and the Global Combat Support System (GCSS) - fit smoothly together in an integrated seamless whole.

Perry has a background tailored for the job which he has held since May 1995. A graduate of Penn State University with a master's in electronic engineering Perry served on active duty from 1972 through 1986 first as a surface warfare officer and then as an engineering duty officer. During a tour at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey Calif. Perry received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering with a minor in computer science.

Just before Perry joined DISA he served as vice president of engineering at Global Associates Ltd. where he led a team of engineers serving as technical direction agent to the Navy's Joint Maritime Command Information System in many ways a precursor to GCCS.

When Perry learned that DISA had an opening for its technical director he quickly applied for the job describing it as "an extraordinary opportunity in a very aggressive and very forward-looking organization."This is a significant chance to get things done not just for the Defense Department but the nation " he said.The chance to work with JIEO director Rear Adm. John Gauss who Perry knows from his active-duty days was another factor in his decision to leave private industry to rejoin the government.

One of the challenges at DISA that has attracted both his personal and professional interest Perry said is the chance to work with infrastructure development at its most basic levels. In this case that means developing the COE - the basic material of both GCCS and GCSS - and its kernel.

While a discussion of the COE could be a slumber-inducer late in the afternoon at an Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association convention Perry brings a quiet passion to the subject. As Perry sees it if DOD is ever to function as an integrated enterprise it needs to develop an organizational infrastructure for its command with control and logistics systems with common supporting applications.

This approach simplifies matters for both developers and users of systems when it comes to matters such as maps and mapping software Perry said. It "does not make much sense" for the different communities of users accessing GCCS and GCSS to each want to access their own unique map databases - something that until recently occurred with legacy systems. Instead both systems will have a "common map window [so] the end user does not have to pull multiple maps down."

As a self-described computer "code slinger" - he started with Cobol in the early age of computing - Perry relishes the daily challenges he faces deep down in the kernel of the DII at DISA. In his personal life Perry unabashedly says he will probably continue to spend his vacations paging through technical esoterica on the beach. That just goes with the code-slinging and COE-building territory.


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