Defense IT

Amid IT advances, Navy ponders path to Joint Information Environment

Terry Halvorsen

Navy CIO Terry Halvorsen is optimistic about JIE success -- eventually.

The Navy is taking steps to get more from its IT, including measures that involve virtualizing servers and desktops, instituting cloud services and improving intelligence capabilities. The department also is "100 percent in" on the Defense Department's Joint Information Environment, but plans for that are a little less clear, according to a top Navy official.

Navy CIO Terry Halvorsen said that he hopes the department's plans for enhancing IT operations will enable sailors and mission partners, whether that is through better intelligence analysis and sharing, achieving savings or more broadly employing mobility. Halvorsen said he also is optimistic about JIE's eventual implementation, but is more cautious about how and when that will happen.

The JIE involves restructuring DOD IT management, infrastructure, services and architecture into a more singularly focused enterprise system.

"We've talked a lot about the different changes in technology; I think the greater changes are in social and political dynamics. Who would have thought 20 years ago that we'd have a task force that would include Russian, Chinese and other partners in one very effective mission network?" Halvorsen said Aug. 6 at the 2013 Federal Forum in Washington. "It's fascinating change, and it requires different treatments of the data."

In recent weeks Halvorsen released two memos directing Navy leaders on key IT measures designed to save the department money. The first memo orders managers to virtualize all current servers and server-based systems and applications by the end of fiscal 2017. The second directs leaders to evaluate the possibility of hosted virtual desktop or "zero-client" solutions, in which a data center provides a network-centric virtual desktop, rather than a traditional desktop setup.

"Why are we doing it? Two big reasons: cost and security," he said, noting that pricing for zero-client computers are on the decline. "You can do more of your operations to include security at the network level. Not every device needs to be licensed to do everything. There are lots of smart reasons for us to do that; it also lets us get more mobile."

However, Halvorsen said that progress on acquiring zero-client capabilities has been slowed by a protest of the recently awarded NGEN contract.

Data, accessibility and ease of operations through better IT all are top priorities at the Navy, and they come together under JIE, the CIO acknowledged. The ability to seamlessly move data between coalition partners – a major goal of JIE – is critical, but the path is a bit hazy, particularly amid budget constraints and a shifting focus toward the Pacific, he admitted.

"I think the debate is how do you get there, what are the priorities, and on what timeline can we get to the end-state of truly being in a joint information environment where all the data can be shared seamlessly?" Halvorsen said. "The size of the theater is going to drive how we get to the JIE, and there's going to have to be some different answers to that end-state in the Pacific. The coalition environment in the Pacific is ever-changing. How do you do that? It's an interesting problem we're really looking hard at."

In other parts of DOD, notable progress on the JIE is being made. On July 31 the Defense Information Systems Agency announced that the first increment of JIE had reached initial operating capability, a milestone marked by a ceremony at DOD's first regional enterprise operations center in Stuttgart, Germany. The center will be responsible for managing JIE access and DOD information network operations for U.S. European and Africa commands.

About the Author

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

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