Army will stop short of outsourcing

Despite some recent pressure from Capitol Hill and their own admission that they need to improve their management of information technology, Army officials have no plans to outsource their technical infrastructure.

David Borland, the Army's deputy chief information officer, said last week that service officials are concerned about driving down IT support costs and making sure their systems can exchange information.

The Army needs to revamp its basic IT infrastructure, but it is not likely they will do so by setting up a massive outsourcing deal as the Navy did with its Navy Marine Corps Intranet, said Borland, speaking last week at the Army Small Computer Program conference in Baltimore.

"We don't know how we're going to acquire the infrastructure piece," he said. "Will we do something like NMCI? Probably not."

In part, the problem stems from having so many individual organizations within the Army setting up their own systems. "What we have are hundreds of fiefdoms governed by scores of shoguns in the [Army's] information technology field," said Borland.

That translates to a fiscal challenge, because organizations end up paying their own support costs rather than sharing that overhead. With IT budgets remaining tight, "we have to find a way to drive down our support costs," Borland said.

For example, like the Air Force, Borland and his Army colleagues want to drastically reduce the number of e-mail servers they maintain.

The Army's best guess at the number of e-mail servers it maintains is 6,300, Borland said. Service officials would like to reduce that number to about 20, he said, but the process could take five years.

"That's 6,300 places where we divert resources to deliver mail," he said. The separate e-mail servers also require separate directories, network administration and public-key infrastructure tokens, he said.

During a House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee hearing two weeks ago, Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), the subcommittee chairman, asked Lt. Gen. Jack Woodward, the Air Force's deputy CIO, and Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello, the Army's CIO, to come up with five-year plans for how they can improve technology service while lowering costs. Weldon also praised the $6.9 billion Navy Marine Corps Intranet outsourcing contract during the hearing.

While the Army moves slowly, some service organizations are forging ahead with their own plans, such as the Army Research Laboratory and the Army Simulation, Training and Instrumentation Command's desktop outsourcing initiatives. The Military District of Washington is also consolidating its servers and technical infrastructure, Borland said.

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