DOD may need congressional help on data centers

Acting Defense Department CIO Halvorsen told a House Armed Services subcommittee that consolidating DOD data centers could require legislation.

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."

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