Stenbit content with IT progress

In what could be one of his last speeches to an industry group before retiring, the Defense Department's chief information officer said he's happy with the progress of major initiatives that began during his tenure.

CIO John Stenbit has been a champion of transformation and network centricity that lets warfighters access data relevant to their missions without waiting for it to be packaged and presented. Now he says enough momentum and money are behind these efforts to make them a reality.

"Today, I am confident that all five [of my initiatives] will go forward," said Stenbit, whose retirement is expected within several weeks. "I wouldn't have been confident saying that a year ago."

Stenbit's initiatives include the Global Information Grid — Bandwidth Expansion (GIG-BE), Network Centric Enterprise Services (NCES), Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), Tactical Communications Satellites (TCS) and High Assurance Internet Protocol Encryption (HAIPE).

Speaking this morning at a breakfast sponsored by the market research firm Input, Stenbit said DOD has been saddled with the misperception that its information budget is nearly $28 billion, when only about $5 billion is spent on what he actually considers to be information technology, such as network systems. That $5 billion is paying the way for Defense transformation.

"Congress wanted to cut $2 billion from the IT budget before anything even happened, because that seemed to be a good place to take it from," he said. "After all, what's $2 billion out of $27 billion? But $2 billion taken from $5 billion is a big deal. We're trying to shape up some definitions [of what is IT] because there has been some confusion."

Input officials forecast that the defense information budget will balloon to $31 billion in fiscal 2005, and up to $37 billion in 2008. Stenbit said Congress had the foresight to return that $2 billion to the IT budget almost entirely intact, and some of what he considers to be the most important projects under his office will continue to see their funding continue throughout their existence.

"The GIG-BE is just shy of $1 billion and we asked for an additional $500 million out of the cold blue night and Congress said yes," he said. "The [tactical satellite] still has a way to go. We had $475 million for it last year, Congress took $100 million, so we still have $375 million for that."

Stenbit said the next major initiative will focus on developing a regulatory regime to connect the rest of DOD's IT to the backbone of his five initiatives. That regulatory regime will include implementing Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), end-to-end encryption and assigning dynamic access to end users.

"We need to assign dynamic access so that you get access to data, rather than based on who you are, based on what your job is at that moment," he said. "If you're a cook in the Army, you need to know where the potatoes are or where the pans are. But if they then give you a gun and tell you to guard this corner, you need to have access to the intelligence of what is happening in that area. We can't do that today."

Defense Department officials are taking their transformation measures seriously, Stenbit said. In fact, research and development and operations and maintenance funding could be withheld from those IT initiatives "not going with the program," he said.

"Are we going to get away with that?" he asked. "Not really. The [Office of the Secretary of Defense] doesn't have that power. But it's going to be an interesting summer."

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