DISA sees managed services as the future

The Defense Information Systems Agency already uses managed services to meet its unpredictable demand and constriction for storage and processing power, but now officials want to expand the concept’s use to software.

John Garing, DISA’s chief information officer, told industry officials Sept. 27 that the Defense Department wants to get away from purchasing software as an enterprise license and more like a usage license.

“There are stairsteps in prices that are not reversible when you purchase software as an enterprise license and once you get to a certain level of use, that cost is forever,” Garing said during a briefing sponsored by Computer Marketing Associates in Vienna, Va. “When we think about managed services, we tell the provider what we need and they figure out how to acquire the products or services.”

Garing said as DISA moves toward this concept, the acquisition workforce must be trained on how to write service-level agreements that ensure the Defense Department gets what it wants.

“There is more of a burden on the government when we do managed services,” he said. “To do software, it will be even harder, so we have to make sure people are trained.”

Along with managed services, Garing said DISA is trying to shift to performance-based statements of work that are shorter and ask for broader capabilities. He added that much of their discretionary spending will be focused on network operations and information assurance.

“More and more services are coming to us for acquisition support because they can’t do it on their own,” Garing said. “DISA’s budget is $7.3 billion, but 80 percent of it is from our customers for their needs in network computing or using our contracting office.”

DISA has created four program executive offices to handle the military services’ needs for satellite communications, command and control services, enterprise services, and information assurance and network operations.

Garing said DISA is evolving to perform small, modular development of services and capabilities, similar to how Google takes an idea to a beta test in three months.

“We go through years of writing requirements and then building it, and when it doesn’t work, we are surprised,” he said.

He also said DISA wants to move to a risk-based approach for testing and certification of systems.

One example of the small modular development is the DOD and the National Security Agency’s Secure Mobile Environment Portable Electronic Device program. The program lets users access classified and unclassified e-mail, networks and make phone calls on a single handheld device.

Garing said DISA will begin using those devices this fall at a cost of about $3,500 for each device.

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