The bright side of budget cuts

As budget cut fever sweeps the federal government, some Defense Department officials say it could actually lead to better collaboration and improved IT.

The fiscal pressures DOD faces can bring about benefits, bringing together the services to share resources and thereby further integrate operations, according to DOD officials who spoke Aug. 28 at the AFCEA Warfighter IT Day in Vienna, Va.

“Resources are going down – which is actually good for IT,” said Mike Krieger, Army deputy CIO/G-6. “Whatever we do in the Army now, especially on the IT side, we have to do a cost-benefit analysis.”

The shrinking resources are also forcing military leadership to take a closer look at what they already have and reconsider what can still prove useful – and to use what they’ve got to get where they need to be, they said.

“While I argue we are going into a very difficult budget environment, I don't necessarily see that as the glass half-empty,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert E. Wheeler, deputy CIO for command, control, communications and computers (C4) and information infrastructure in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. “I argue that the glass is half full.”

DOD leaders are looking to IT as a touchstone, and are focused on achieving a single, enterprise network approach that links the entire military together, catalyzing cooperation while also saving money and boosting national security in the cyber realm, the officials said.

“There has never been and never will be more importance placed on the network. There has never been and never will be a greater threat to our network,” Maj. Gen. Mark Bowman, director of command control, communications and computers (J6) at the Joint Staff. “We’re going to change with the times as we need to at the time and drive toward a future where we operate as an enterprise, as opposed to a constellation. This is our mission.”

At the heart of that mission is the joint information enterprise (JIE), a concept built on joint efforts the military already has under way, including data center consolidation, enterprise e-mail and other cloud capabilities. He acknowledged it’s a complex and difficult undertaking, noting that it “dwarfs the complexity associated with Joint Strike Fighter or any other big program.” The JIE isn't a program, he emphasized -- it's a combination of programs and efforts designed for interoperability across DOD.

In keeping with the streamlining approach, Bowman stressed that the JIE and the major parts comprising it, such as the so-called future mission network, will largely be built from commercial off-the-shelf technologies (COTS), not proprietary solutions. It’s an idea that will become a department-wide approach in its partnership with industry, he noted.

“We’re looking for COTS as much as we can find it. The enemy is using COTS; we can’t have them ahead of us,” Bowman said. Less-than-perfect solutions have been fielded and adapted to become game-changers, he added.

“Perfect is 60 (percent) to 80 percent to me," he said. "If we can do 60, 70 or 80 percent now and evolve over time… there will be a whole lot more players in the game, a lot more competition and in the end a much better country for it.”

The JIE is also foundational in improving U.S. cybersecurity posture, noted Rear Adm. David Simpson, DISA's vice director. He said the enterprise approach is critical in overcoming DOD’s disparate networks, systems and approaches.

“All our firewalls didn’t improve security – the only thing they really did was give us a false sense of security,” Simpson said. “As we go forward, we believe that the single-point-of-information environment, and building that environment as a platform, allows us to define the enemy’s lines of approach…but also to spot insider threat activity across the entire environment. The ability to see across that entire space is absolutely critical.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

The Fed 100

Read the profiles of all this year's winners.


  • Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at a 2016 campaign event. Image: Shutterstock

    'Buy American' order puts procurement in the spotlight

    Some IT contractors are worried that the "buy American" executive order from President Trump could squeeze key innovators out of the market.

  • OMB chief Mick Mulvaney, shown here in as a member of Congress in 2013. (Photo credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

    White House taps old policies for new government makeover

    New guidance from OMB advises agencies to use shared services, GWACs and federal schedules for acquisition, and to leverage IT wherever possible in restructuring plans.

  • Shutterstock image (by Everett Historical): aerial of the Pentagon.

    What DOD's next CIO will have to deal with

    It could be months before the Defense Department has a new CIO, and he or she will face a host of organizational and operational challenges from Day One

  • USAF Gen. John Hyten

    General: Cyber Command needs new platform before NSA split

    U.S. Cyber Command should be elevated to a full combatant command as soon as possible, the head of Strategic Command told Congress, but it cannot be separated from the NSA until it has its own cyber platform.

  • Image from Shutterstock.

    DLA goes virtual

    The Defense Logistics Agency is in the midst of an ambitious campaign to eliminate its IT infrastructure and transition to using exclusively shared, hosted and virtual services.

  • Fed 100 logo

    The 2017 Federal 100

    The women and men who make up this year's Fed 100 are proof positive of what one person can make possibile in federal IT. Read on to learn more about each and every winner's accomplishments.

Reader comments

Fri, Aug 31, 2012

What part of 'common service' and 'it's all the same store' does DoD leadership not understand? The fact that it is taking a funds cutoff to make them do what they should have done years ago based on common sense, makes a strong argument that most or all Back Office functions should be taken away from the services by law, and put in a command directly under SecDef.

Thu, Aug 30, 2012 Go-Joe

Maybe this might lead to novel & better security products being deployed widely ... such as the free telework computer (AFRL's Lightweight Portble Security by AFRL / DISA's Bootble Media) ... personally-adopted, widely deployed COTS MDM solutions plus CAC-login tools for Android and iOS devices (not BYOD, not fully within the network, not fully outside, but rather a safer in-between)

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group