DoD leaders: Teamwork is key to network modernization

By Justine Ruggio, CIO/G-6November 23, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 17, 2015)--More than 1,500 leaders from the tech and government IT communities met for the 5th annual gathering of FEDTalks 2015 presented by Fedscoop at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium.

The event hosted some of the most influential leaders from government, technology and politics who came together for one day to discuss how technology and people can change the government and IT communities.

Three key Department of Defense officials, including the Department of Defense deputy chief information officer, the Defense Information Systems Agency implementation & sustainment center director, and the Army's chief information officer (CIO)/G-6, offered keynote speeches to highlight successful, new initiatives from their organizations respectively.

The U.S. Army's CIO/G-6, Lt. Gen. Robert S. Ferrell, underlined the ways information technology is shaping the future of the Army and how the various federal agencies work together to achieve a common goal. "Although our organizations have very different responsibilities, we are all confronting many of the same challenges, and we are seeking to take advantage of many of the same opportunities," he said.

Ferrell shared three overarching thoughts with the large audience: How the U.S. Army is transitioning from operations of the past years, modernizing the Army Network and 'game-changing' technologies they must prepare for. "Today's Army is a force that is simultaneously in transition, in action and in preparation for a very complex future," said Ferrell. "We are transitioning from nearly 15 years of sustained deployments in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan meaning we are retraining our soldiers, repairing our equipment and support a new generation of veterans and their families," he said.

Ferrell said today's Army is still very much in action all around the globe. "We live in a world today where we cannot predict who we will fight, where we will fight or what allies might fight alongside us," said Ferrell. "Our soldiers have to be prepared to move quickly and skillfully from providing disaster relief, to training with our allies, to engaging in combat within a moment's notice," he said.

Ferrell also addressed how a modernized U.S. Army network is critical to the service and how it is the tie that binds the force together. He stressed that the goal in modernizing the U.S. Army network is to build a secure, integrated, standards-based network that ensures uninterrupted global access to the right information at the right time. Whether it's here in the U.S. or all the way to the soldier on the furthest edge of the most austere and remote battlefield.

The U.S. Army is teaming with the Air Force and Defense Information Systems Agency to execute migration to the Joint Regional Security Stacks which Ferrell dubbed as a "firewall on steroids".

"Joint Readiness Security Stacks (JRSS) will perform critical firewall functions like intrusion detection and prevention, enterprise management and virtual routing and forwarding," he said.

DOD's deputy chief information officer David DeVries complemented Ferrell's remarks emphasizing the importance of building partnerships to achieve mission success while simultaneously driving down the cost of IT. "Together is where we must drive down the cost while improving the security side of the house. It's a partnership. I need the vendor community, agencies, states and tribes to figure out the appropriate costs for the appropriate security," said DeVries.

"General Ferrell talked about the JRSS which is a very complex system made up of various sets of components that come from different vendors and we are going to be changing them," DeVries said. "Why? Because acquisition and mergers happen and technology changes; what we are doing today might be good enough now until there is another breakthrough." He said.

David Bennett, chief information officer for DISA, also highlighted the importance of JRSS and its capability for the department to move local cybersecurity across the DoD to a regional level to allow for fewer points within the ecosystem that needs to be checked. "JRSS is a regional view of bringing security into one place to provide a better understanding of everything across the network," Bennett said. "We can now see the massive amounts of data and activities that take place across the network worldwide," he said.

Bennett said they are leveraging commercial technology and solutions while working with other agencies to provide a classified smartphone for folks working at the secret level which will have a look and feel no different from other smartphones. "This is a huge improvement in delivering capabilities for the warfighter," he said.

Capabilities such as the ones Ferrell discussed offered insight into the U.S. Army's perspective on "game-changing technologies" and how the U.S. Army is working to keep the technologic edge.

The three DoD speakers painted an exciting picture for the future of information technology across the Department of Defense.