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Joint Information Environment Serves Warfighters, Official Says

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

FAIRFAX, Va., May 21, 2013 – The Joint Information Environment isn’t a program, it’s an end state, the Defense Department’s deputy chief information officer for information enterprise said at an industry conference here today.

The term “Joint Information Environment” simply describes the ability to deliver data to the Defense Department’s military and civilian personnel wherever and whenever they need it, David L. DeVries explained.

“The bottom line is that the warfighter needs to have the mission accomplished, and to be successful, he needs to have the information there,” he said.

The department is working to define the final requirements for the capabilities that it wants for the Joint Information Environment, DeVries said, adding that the process should wrap up before mid-August.

This end state can’t be achieved without streamlining data delivery processes and eliminating excess capacity, DeVries said. Nor will it happen overnight, he added. “Replacing of legacy networks and putting in the right stuff takes time,” he said, adding that the way those networks are operated may change before they’re replaced.

The Defense Department now has about 1,850 data centers -- facilities used to house computer systems and associated components. In some instances, those data centers manage duplicate, parallel networks, DeVries said. For example, an Air Force unit housed at an Army base might have its own data center rather than using the one at the Army base. This leads to slower, less-efficient networks. But by fiscal year 2017, the number of data centers should be down to somewhere between 50 and 100, he said.

DeVries said he expects to develop a list of core data centers and their characteristics by the end of the summer.

The result will be a smaller physical network footprint that will move data much more quickly and efficiently and be easier to secure because it’s easier to oversee, DeVries said. “You have to know what you’ve got in order to secure it,” he said. “There is a need to know where your boundaries are, invest the money into the protection of those boundary lines where things cross, and to continuously monitor and sample the things in between.”

The streamlining process will carry over to acquisitions and personnel, he said, as enterprise-wide contracting becomes the standard and information technology staffs are consolidated.

With 3.5 million users on the unclassified side alone, DeVries said, “I can’t allow everyone to create their own network, to run it their own way, because then, truly, it’s too costly to secure.”

Ultimately, everyone will benefit, he said, because as the network becomes easier to secure, it will become more flexible -- something that takes on added importance as the department embraces mobile platforms.

“We're recognizing the fact that we can't just tether somebody to their desk,” DeVries said. “They've got to be mobile, whether they work from home or from work.”

These are paradigm shifts for the Defense Department and the military departments, DeVries said, but the Joint Information Environment will drive mission effectiveness.

One of the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan was that both technological and policy issues made data-sharing between partner nations difficult, he said. Policy problems can be worked through, DeVries noted, but the technological framework has to be in place for policy solutions to work.

 

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