Defense

DOD may need congressional help on data centers

Shutterstock image: black data center with white floors and ceiling. 

Acting Defense Department CIO Terry Halvorsen may need legislation to accomplish his goal of transforming how DOD data centers operate, he told Congress Feb. 25.

"We need to look at how we can expand private-public partnership, particularly in the area of data distribution or data centers," Halvorsen said in testimony before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, adding that doing so may require legislation. Halvorsen said he was interested in realigning, for example, Defense Information Systems Agency data centers as public-private partnerships to "get full value out of what can be commercial rate improvements."

Though he later declined to tell reporters what such legislation might look like, Halvorsen has floated the idea of hybrid data centers before. At a recent DOD cloud industry day, Halvorsen said he wants to make it possible to have private firms interfacing with data centers housed at government facilities.

Lawmakers did not respond directly to Halvorsen's legislative idea during the hearing, but when asked about it afterwards, Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), the subcommittee's ranking minority member, said it was something he would consider in the short term. Langevin said it is generally good policy to encourage the Pentagon to use commercial off-the-shelf technology and pursue public-private partnerships, but added that that he's unsure if legislation is appropriate in this case.

For Halvorsen, public-private data centers would help make better use of the vast trove of data DOD manages. Since becoming the Pentagon's top IT official in May, Halvorsen has prioritized data-center consolidation. "We have too many systems that do the same thing," he said in one of his first public appearances in June, adding that some of the department's databases have 80 percent or more data in common. He repeated that figure Feb. 25 on Capitol Hill.

Halvorsen also told lawmakers that the Pentagon needs the flexibility to be able to rotate cybersecurity experts in from the private sector, a point the head of Army Cyber Command made earlier this week.

Here again Langevin said he is mulling a legislative remedy. Despite some progress made by the military services in hiring and retaining cyber experts, Langevin said, "I still believe [that] both short, medium and especially in the long run, competition for the best and brightest in this field is going to be a significant challenge." If the Pentagon needs additional flexibility in hiring cyber talent, he said, "we need to be able to support that effort."

About the Author

Sean Lyngaas is an FCW staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Prior to joining FCW, he was a reporter and editor at Smart Grid Today, where he covered everything from cyber vulnerabilities in the U.S. electric grid to the national energy policies of Britain and Mexico. His reporting on a range of global issues has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Economist, The Washington Diplomat and The Washington Post.

Lyngaas is an active member of the National Press Club, where he served as chairman of the Young Members Committee. He earned his M.A. in international affairs from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and his B.A. in public policy from Duke University.

Click here for previous articles by Lyngaas, or connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


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