The day of the big systems integrator is over, says DISA official

The Defense Department used to lead technology development, but now industry leads and government adopts, officials said Jan. 9 at a luncheon in Washington. As a result, The Defense Information Systems Agency is trying several innovative ways to bring the best commercial information technology products to DOD as it moves away from propriety systems and software in its search for greater speed and flexibility.

“The day of the big systems integrator is over,” Brig. Gen. David Warner, DISA’s program executive officer for command and control capabilities, announced to a crowd of industry executives at the event, hosted by AFCEA’s Washington, D.C., chapter.

No longer will one company work alone to build a system based on proprietary software, Warner said. Instead, DISA will use loose requirements to create a “capability architecture” and call on third parties to collect technologies from across the private sector, he said.

Lead systems integrators will continue to play a big role, but that role will have to change, said John Garing, DISA’s chief information officer.

“If we continue to buy large, turnkey solutions that have a lot of integrated software in them, that reduces necessarily the flexibility we want,” Garing said in an interview with Federal Computer Week. DISA is trying to move toward a service-oriented architecture (SOA) framework that can add the military agencies one by one and pick up new things quickly, he said.

“That argues against the use of an integrated, single solution with proprietary software in it,” Garing said. Prime integrators can participate in the SOA model, but, “I don’t see on the horizon from DISA any large integration contracts,” he said.

The strategy fits in with DISA’s “ABC” concept, which is to adopt, buy and create technologies in descending order of preference. The goal is to speed the procurement process, which fails to keep pace with change, Garing said.

Future DISA contracts will follow the models of Net-Enabled Command Capability and Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES), which focus on SOA and managed services. DISA awarded a utility-style managed service contract for server processing last October and intends to award a similar contract for data storage services soon, officials have said.

“We want things cheaper, better and faster,” said David Mihelcic, DISA’s chief technology officer. Open-source software, SOA and Web-based services are examples of how DISA wants to use leading-edge technologies and move away from proprietary solutions, he said.

For example, DISA awarded a $17 million contract for IBM’s Lotus Sametime Suite of collaboration tools last July using the NCES contract vehicle. DISA will award a second contract for collaboration tools and allow both programs to compete for users on the Defense Knowledge Online Web portal.

DISA will issue a request for quotes this month for collaboration software on the General Services Administration schedule, said NCES Program Manager Becky Harris. DISA will also soon issue a request for proposals for a managed services contract for an SOA foundation, she said.

On the security side, DISA is working on solutions for insider threat detection and will soon recompete its contracts for antivirus software, said Richard Hale, DISA’s chief for information assurance. In the future, DOD will seek enterprisewide acquisitions to address attack detection and diagnosis, e-mail security and management of the DOD/Internet boundary, he said.

DISA is also looking outside the traditional defense industrial community and is gleaning best practices from major corporations, Garing said.

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