Making architectures work

The U.S. Pacific Command, like all federal agencies, is developing an enterprise architecture that will enable it to identify and take advantage of the latest technology and systems available, while still planning and managing for the future.

The Defense Department's Global Information Grid (GIG), which is designed to provide DOD with a working framework for moving to network-centric operations, is a great start to solving the military services' architecture problem, but it needs to better incorporate service-specific solutions as they are developed, especially command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) applications, said Navy Adm. Thomas Fargo, Pacom's commander.

And that's what the joint information capabilities enhancement environment (JICEE) is designed to do, said Randall Cieslak, Pacom's chief information officer.

The initiative, launched last month, includes everything from existing C4I systems to ideas still on the drawing board or under development through DOD's Advanced Concept Technology Demonstrations program.

Cieslak describes it as an effort to "get into the process of mapping all of the various efforts onto a standard information framework." He added that it's similar to work being done with open-source systems, in which certain data is publicly available and gives users the opportunity to collaborate and contribute ideas on the technology as it evolves.

"The goal is to establish a standard grid to manage changes in technology, which can be tough because the efforts don't map exactly," Cieslak said at AFCEA International's TechNet Asia-Pacific 2002 conference last month in Honolulu. "JICEE is designed to exploit and thrive on the changes in technology."

DOD officials believe that setting up the GIG as a common framework will help the department eliminate stovepiped systems. Cieslak said that effort is progressing, but the problem is that old stovepipes are sometimes replaced with new ones.

"We need one single infrastructure — the GIG — and to refresh the solutions" that are part of it, he said.

Felix Rausch, director of the Federal Enterprise Architecture Certification (FEAC) Institute, a nonprofit education and training institute, said many such initiatives are taking shape in DOD and across government because without an enterprise architecture plan, programs will not receive funding. Even with a plan, proper training is needed to make the plan work, he said.

"You would never get on a plane without a certified pilot...and you can't expect people to do something they haven't learned to do," Rausch said. The FEAC Institute offers a two-and-a-half-month certification program, which includes two-and-a-half weeks of classroom instruction followed by Web-based training that requires its students to create a real-world project for presentation to their agency's CIO, chief financial officer or director, with FEAC Institute staff mentoring and monitoring the whole project, he said.

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