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The 2015 NDAA Mandates Open Architecture for Defense IT Systems

Provisions in the annual National Defense Authorization Act legislation affect the Defense sector of the federal information technology market over many years.  Consider, for example, the mandate in the FY 2012 NDAA calling for the Department of Defense to utilize cloud services provided by commercial partners.  The DoD has been working ever since to find a viable way of implementing this mandate.  The far-reaching impact of NDAA provisions thus make it imperative that federal contractors understand how the legislation will affect their business at the DoD in the future.
The FY 2015 NDAA promises to have a significant impact as it features an important provision calling for the DoD to adopt open architecture for all of its IT systems. Specifically, Section 801 calls for the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics to create a plan that “develops standards and defines architectures necessary to enable open systems approaches in the key mission areas.”  The discussion about using modular approaches to acquisitions has been evolving at the DoD for several years, resulting in a shift in the length and complexity of contracted efforts.  Rather than procuring a single end-to-end solution, Defense customers tend increasingly to initiate program procurements in increments.  These increments have shorter time spans and defined objectives that set parameters for the acquisition of the next increment. In Section 801, Congress gives this “modular” approach the weight of law, meaning vendors should expect to see even more short-duration, lower dollar value, limited objective procurements.
Equally important is the call for DoD to develop a strategy for using open architecture.  The department is currently in the process of creating a unified transport network based on internet protocol.  This may work well for newer systems, but thousands of legacy systems across the DoD remain locked in proprietary configurations.  A clause in Section 801 mandates that the USD AT&L submit a report which “outlines a process for the potential conversion [of legacy systems] to an open systems approach.” Engineering those systems to operate on an open architecture will unlock data, make the systems interoperable, and enable Defense customers to transition more easily from one IT support vendor to another.
If this sounds like the next, deeper level of the Joint Information Environment, you are right on target.  IT vendors should take heed and get ahead of the curve because in all probability open architecture is going to be a requirement for every unclassified (classified too?) solution that the DoD procures in the future.  If your solution isn’t open, it won’t be purchased.  End of story.
The open architecture requirement will also compel Defense customers to take a hard look at commercial cloud as an alternative.  Why spend money engineering an antiquated legacy system to operate on an open architecture when you can hire a vendor to host the data and implement a comparable, new interoperable system? 
In short, the 2015 NDAA should stimulate business opportunity at the DoD as funding locked in Operations and Maintenance funding for legacy systems moves into new efforts to re-engineer and/or cloud-enable those systems for use in an open architecture.


New JIE Requirements May Help the “Internet of Things” at the DoD

The “Internet of Things” (IoT) is a pretty common phrase these days, with the rapid-expanding interconnectivity of devices and sensors sending information across communications networks, all to achieve greater capabilities, effectiveness, efficiency, and flexibility.  The Department of Defense (DoD) clearly links the growth of emerging, interconnected technologies to the sustained superiority of U.S. defense capabilities, on and off the battlefield, so you could say that the IoT impacts defense IT at all levels.

The key to leveraging the IoT is in harnessing and integrating three key areas:

  • Information – Data from devices and sensors, (e.g. phone, camera, appliance, vehicle, GPS, etc.) and information from applications and systems, (e.g. social media, eCommerce, industrial systems, etc.) provide the content input.
  • Connectivity – Network connections via various wireless capabilities and communications backbones provide the transport links for aggregation and distribution. This facilitates the environment where data meets the power to use that data.
  • Processing – The computational capacity and capabilities to make the data content useful.  This may reside at the device and/or back end and ranges in complexity, (e.g. data analytics, etc.)


DoD Implications

The use of integrated networks to connect data with processing capacity to affect outcomes is far from a new idea at the DoD – it gave us much of the warfighting capabilities we have today. But technological evolution has resulted in a growing IoT mentality that goes beyond combat operations. One example is the establishment of the Air Force Installation Service Management Command (AFISMC) to coordinate management and maintenance of resources across Air Force bases and facilities. According to Air Force CTO Frank Konieczny, potential uses of IoT include facilities and vehicle management, logistics and transportation, integrated security, and robotics.

But pervasive connectivity is also creating security ramifications.  In the wake of a network security incident last year, the Navy launched Task Force Cyber Awakening (TFCA) in an effort to protect hardware and software Navy-wide as IoT engulfs everything from weapons systems to shipboard PA systems.

Importance of the JIE

The drive to leverage sensor technologies and data analytics that these technologies enable is a driving force behind the DoD’s Joint Information Environment (JIE) network modernization efforts, so the pace of sensor-based innovation is tied to the success of JIE efforts. Adding potentially tens of thousands of diverse Internet-connected objects to a network that then need to be managed and secured will require proactive IT governance policies to ensure effectiveness, and some provisions in recent law apply.

The FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed just last month, requires the DoD CIO to develop processes and metrics within the next six months for measuring the operational effectiveness and efficiency of the JIE. Further, Congress is having the CIO identify a baseline architecture for the JIE and any information technology programs or other investments that support that architecture.

These requirements may stem, in part, from a desire to help formalize and oversee JIE as an investment program, but the resulting baseline architecture will help pave the way to further implement greater IoT capabilities. The data from sensor-based devices will only continue to grow, but to maximize its utility the DoD will need a successful JIE to connect and carry the information.

Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about 
GovWin FIA. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.


FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Set to Pass

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015 has crossed a major hurdle to passage before the end of the calendar year as a House-Senate compromise bill has emerged. The final bill has implications for information technology acquisition and management at the Pentagon and beyond.

The legislation is a combination of two bills that each passed last May: HR 4435, which passed the full House, and S 2410, which passed in the Senate Armed Services Committee. As is typical, this year’s NDAA goes well beyond funding of national defense operations to include organizational and acquisition reform efforts and information technology priorities. Below is an overview of the high points of the bill.


  • Authorizes $521.3 billion in base discretionary defense spending and an additional $63.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), reflecting the President’s initial request of $58.6 billion and the additional request of $5.1 billion to primarily cover counter-ISIL operations. The FY ‘15 NDAA is $48.0 billion less than the enacted FY ‘14 NDAA.
  • Does not reflect a proposed BRAC round as requested by the Administration, citing concerns that previous rounds did not yield the promised savings but rather imposed large up-front costs only to shift property between federal agencies. The current flux of military size and structure is also cited as a reason to postpone a BRAC round.
  • Selectively supports some White House proposals – like limited compensation increases for military personnel, including a for a pay freeze for General and Flag Officers – while adjusting others – like replacing a 5% reduction in basic allowance for housing (BAH) with a 1% decrease. This NDAA also blocks retirement of the A-10 aircraft, but provides for some reprogramming of those funds to higher priorities if needed.

Reform Efforts

  • Restores the Office of Net Assessment (ONA) to an independent status, reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense, and increases the ONA budget for FY ‘15 by $10 million to $18.9 million
  • Directs the SECDEF to report on the feasibility of reducing or consolidating combatant command functions by FY20 and a plan to implement a periodic review and analysis of management headquarters. This NDAA would also task GAO with assessing the DoD’s headquarter reduction efforts as part of GAO’s previous work assessing HQ growth.
  • Directs the Under Secretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, (USD (AT&L)) and senior acquisition executives for the Navy and the Air Force to issue DoD-wide policies implementing a standard checklist to be completed before issuing a solicitation for any new contract for services or exercising an option under an existing services contract. The FY ‘08 NDAA established an annual services contracts inventory requirement that DoD has yet to fully implement.
  • As a cost-control mechanism, the bill requires the Comptroller General to conduct a review of cases in which an acquisition program office believes that the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation has required testing above the required test plan.
  • Directs the SECDEF to provide the congressional defense committees with frequent reports on DoD’s damage assessment resulting from unauthorized disclosures of classified information and steps the Department is taking to mitigate the damage.
  • Provides for an overhaul of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) process to produce a new Defense Strategy Review that is more long-term and strategic in nature and a more useful oversight tool.

Information Technology and Cyber Operations

  • Directs the President to maintain a list of nation-states or individuals that engage in economic or industrial espionage using cyber tools, and allows for the President to impose sanctions on such individuals or nation-states
  • Directs the SECDEF to designate an executive agency for cyber test ranges and another for cyber training ranges to better coordinate and resource each
  • Requires the development of a Major Force Program for cyber to better account for the budgeting and resourcing of cyber operations capabilities
  • Requires mandatory reporting on penetrations of operationally critical contractor networks
  • Requires the development and implementation of operational metrics for the performance of the Joint Information Environment (JIE)
  • Implements the Federal Information Technology Reform Act (FITARA) that has stalled and been removed from last year’s NDAA, according to Nextgov. FITARA will give additional budgetary and management authorities to agency CIOs, although no so much in the DoD. Nextgov also notes that the NDAA also supports federal data center consolidation efforts, the DoD’s move to cloud computing, and a plan to expand the use special IT acquisition experts.

While the final bill still needs to pass both the full House and Senate and be signed by the president, the FITARA provisions should not be a major reason for a presidential veto, according to a Federal News Radio interview with some members of Congress.  

Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about 
GovWin FIA. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.


Raising the Stakes of Contractor Past Performance Information

Contractor past performance information is one tool federal agencies are being pressed to use more effectively to guard against acquisition risk and recent White House acquisition policy and a Government Accountability Office (GAO) assessment signals that the pressure in this area will only continue to grow. Some efforts are fairly standard government approaches, but others expand into new areas and have implications for both agencies and their contracting companies.

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) has issued numerous reporting compliance guidelines and recommendations over the last half-decade or more to move agencies to improve their reporting of contractor past performance. Further, Congress has included past performance reporting mandates in the last several National Defense Authorization Acts (NDAA). In typical fashion, GAO is looking for continued signs that these efforts are materializing so that agencies have this information available to make informed acquisition decisions.

Most Agencies Fall Short of Contractor Past Performance Reporting Compliance Targets

In August, the GAO released an assessment of how federal agencies were doing with regard to improving their reporting of contractor past performance information. According to OFPP’s annual reporting performance targets, agencies should have been at least 65 percent compliant by the end of fiscal year 2013. GAO found that agencies generally have improved their level of compliance with past performance reporting requirements issued by OFPP. However, the rate of compliance varies widely by agency and most have not met OFPP targets. As of April 2014, for the top 10 agencies, based on the number of contracts requiring an evaluation, the compliance rate ranged from 13 to 83 percent and only two of the top 10 agencies were above 65 percent compliance. (See chart below.)


OFPP Expanding Scope of Contractor Past Performance Information

In July, the OFPP directed agencies to research past performance more deeply before awarding complex IT development, systems and services contracts greater than $500 thousand in value. Further, OFPP directed agencies to expand the scope of the research processes used to collect contractors’ past performance information during source selection.

In order to have the most relevant, recent, and meaningful information about potential contracting partners considered in the pre-award phase of the acquisition process agencies were instructed to have their acquisition officials perform the following steps:

  • Recent Contracts - Contact contracting officers (COs) and/or Program Managers (PMs) on at least 2 of contractors’ largest, most recent contracts to review work history.
  • News Searches – a Review articles and publications (include. GAO and IG reports) on contractor performance and business integrity.
  • Commercial Sources - Review public sources and databases for business reviews, customer evaluations, contractor management reports, etc.
  • References – a Request 3-5 references from public and commercial customers, partners, subcontractors, etc. for work done in past 3-5 years.
  • Teaming Partners – Request past performance information on subcontractors and team arrangements.


The impacts on agencies and contractors alike include greater time and effort (i.e. expense) in collecting and providing this performance information. This will stretch an already-overly-tasked federal acquisitions workforce even further and will require that contractors pay broader attention to their performance reputations and those of their teaming partners.

The new OFPP directives and others like them will also likely extend the time it takes to complete the source selection process on applicable acquisitions, at least until all sides of the acquisition process build some repeatable processes and efficiencies into their systems.

What we can hope for in the end is more transparency, better managed acquisitions with fewer protests, and overall better performing contracts that meet the government’s goals with economy and efficiency and provide business growth opportunities along the way.

Originally published in the GovWin FIA Analysts Perspectives Blog. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.

2014 NDAA Allows Prime Contractors to Count Lower Tier Small Businesses

The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), signed into law in December, offers advantages to small business contractors as well as prime contractors, by allowing primes to count all dollars funneled to small businesses.  To date, primes could only tally first tier small business subcontractors for their small business subcontracting goals.


The Making Every Small Business Count Act of 2013, first introduced by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) in June, became an amendment to the NDAA.   Unlike prime contractors, federal agencies are currently able to count all spending with small businesses toward their small business utilization goals regardless of the tier the company holds on a contract.   The new rule is meant to incentivize prime contractors to further expand their use of small business contractors.   Once the new rule takes effect, primes will be allowed to count 2nd tier subcontractors (subcontractors’ subs) toward their small business subcontracting goals.  “The change will encourage prime contractors to fully consider the merits of small business bids,” stated Graves in June when he first introduced the legislation.


Provisions of the amendment include the following:

  • The amendment increases availability of lower tier subcontracts to small businesses by counting every subcontracted dollar toward the negotiated small business contracting goal.  
  • Agencies negotiate small business subcontracting goals with prime contractors, and prime contractors pass down the requirements to use small businesses to their own large subcontractors.  The dollars reported are then applied to the government’s goal for subcontracted dollars to small businesses.   
  • By basing the goal on all tiers, the amendment allows for higher small business utilization goals in contracts.

Surprisingly, the American Small Business Coalition (ASBC) does not stand behind this legislation.  On the surface, the legislation appears to provide added advantages to small businesses in the federal contracting arena.  However, Guy Timberlake ASBC CEO, asserts in his blog post, “Don't we have enough challenges with entities that are not legit small businesses being awarded work directly (or indirectly) by federal agencies? Now we create an unmonitored means for organizations to boost their numbers.”   Timberlake’s belief is that large business affiliates and subsidiaries stand to gain the greatest benefit from this change, rather than true independently-owned small businesses. 

It will be some time before the true impact of this legislation will be felt.  The rules and regulations will be developed and then enacted within 12-18 months.  The new criteria will only apply to contracts entered into in the following fiscal year after the rules are enacted. 

Although primes will not be able to count 2nd tier subcontractors toward small business goals in the near future, the new criteria should be on their radar as well as that of small business contractors.  Small companies wishing to enter the federal contracting space may be afforded easier access in years to come.  


2014 NDAA Directs DoD to Address Gaps in Space Capabilities

You may have read the news recently that the People’s Republic of China has landed a probe and rover on the moon.  Interesting story, right?  Whatever thoughts the Chang’e-3 lander and accompanying Jade Rabbit rover elicited, it would be worthwhile to consider what a technological accomplishment like this by China means.  China is demonstrating rapidly evolving technological capabilities.  It is also inexorably moving to weaponize space.

The United States has a lead in this area of technology, but that lead is rapidly eroding and the Department of Defense knows it.  China’s lunar capabilities show that not only can China successfully launch and target an intercontinental ballistic missile (a.k.a. a rocket with a nuclear warhead instead of a lunar lander) it can also employ command and control capabilities on a global basis.  This fact undoubtedly keeps the DoD’s leadership awake at night and now it has also grabbed the attention of Congress, which is poised to pass the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014.  This iteration of the NDAA contains provisions calling out the importance of space as a domain that the DoD must invest in to protect the United States.  Congressionally mandated investment is good news for industry, which will play a critical role in providing the DoD with the goods and services it needs to get the job done.

What exactly are these provisions?  The first is Section 912, “National Security Space Defense and Protection,” which directs the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence to address near- and long-term threats to U.S. national security space systems by reviewing those threats and reporting on measures being taken to mitigate them.  Such a review could lead to the exposure of a number of gaps that the DoD will be required to address and gaps often lead to procurements.  One gap that comes to mind immediately is stovepiping of satellite control operations.  Earlier this year the GAO criticized the DoD for deploying standalone satellite control operations networks designed to operate a single satellite system, as opposed to shared systems that can operate multiple kinds of satellites.  Other gaps include bandwidth shortages and antiquated ground stations.

The second NDAA provision is Section 913 concerning “Space Acquisition Policy.”  In this section the Congress scolds the DoD for habitually using single-year leases for securing commercial satellite services, calling them “the most expensive and least strategic method” of procurement.  Instead, the DoD is encouraged to investigate using multi-year leases commercial satellite services and for procuring Government-owned payloads on commercial satellites.  The Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics and DoD Chief Information Officer are directed to come up with an acquisition strategy by March 2014.  Assuming this strategy evolves on pace it looks possible that the DoD could begin procuring additional commercial satellite services toward the end of the fiscal year or, possibly, early in fiscal 2015.

This brings us to Section 914 regarding Congress’ demand that the DoD provide it with a “Space Control Mission Report.”  This report is expected to provide the following information:

  • Identification of existing offensive and defensive space control systems, policies, and the technical possibilities of future systems
  • Identification of any gaps or risks in existing space control system architecture and possibilities for improvement or mitigation of such gaps or risks (see above!)
  • A description of existing and future sensor coverage and ground processing capabilities for space situational awareness
  • An explanation of the extent to which all relevant and available information is being utilized for space situational awareness to detect, track, and identify objects in space
  • A description of existing space situational awareness data sharing practices
  • Plans for the future space control mission, including force levels and structure

These requirements force the DoD to explain to Congress what the current state of command and control capabilities are, where gaps and vulnerabilities in these exist, and where C2 is going in the future.  This study may not lead the DoD to spend any money on space mission control systems in the near-term, but given the certainty that gaps will be uncovered, it could easily lead to spending down the road, so be sure to keep these potential requirements on your radar.



Air Force Reveals Causes Behind ECSS’s $1B Failure

With ongoing budget uncertainty, the Department of Defense and Congress are looking for ways to trim waste, improve program performance and modernize key aspects of the nation’s military capability. So when there are major program failures like the Air Force’s Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) Congress wants answers.  The results of an Air Force inquiry into ECSS reveal a program fraught with issues.

When the ECSS cancelation was announced last December, Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, demanded an explanation for the failure in a letter they sent to then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. In March, 2013 the Air Force appointed an Acquisition Incident Review (AIR) Team to respond to Congressional demands for an explanation. Now, nearly a year later, the Air Force has submitted its findings.

Contributing Causes to the ECSS Cancelation

The report, of which only an executive summary has been released publicly, identifies four contributing causes as to why the ECSS project was cancelled. These four contributing causes are:

  • Governance – a confusing and, at times, ineffectual governance structure that varied repeatedly during its existence. Various DoD acquisition methodologies were used and/or combined throughout the program and there lacked coherent leadership guidance and coordination on how to implement these meshed approaches, adding delays, uncertainty and additional effort. The AIR Team says this issue is not yet resolved.
  • Tactics, Techniques, and ProceduresECSS “suffered from instances where either the wrong “tool” was selected from the “acquisition toolbox” or the proper tool was selected but misapplied.” The driver for this was an underestimation of how to deal with the size and complexity of the effort, lack of defined requirements and use of an ESI BPA for an effort that required significant development effort. The AIR Team concludes that the Air Force did not understand the magnitude of legacy system data involved so they were not able to effectively communicate requirements to program bidders.
  • Difficulty of Change – ECSS attempted to develop a strategic and disruptive technology to improve logistics business processes while concurrently seeking “buy in” from a skeptical user community. The Air Force didn’t effectively manage the proposed changes in systems and processes demanded by the ECSS approach. The issue was made worse by lack of program successes undermined credibility with the field.
  • Personnel and Organizational Churn – High turnover (6 PMs in 8 years, 5 PEOs in 6 years, etc.), the use of term positions (vs. permanent positions), and the way the Air Force organizes its acquisitions all led to instability, uncertainty and program churn that put the program at increased risk.

Recently I wrote about how the House version of the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed in June, includes provisions related to Air Force ERP systems modernization efforts and specific requirements for root-cause analysis of the ECSS program. It appears that both this AIR Team report and the NDAA provisions are an acknowledgement of the level of scrutiny which major systems modernization efforts will continue to have on Capitol Hill. We’ll see if the House provisions survive to the final NDAA if and when the Senate finalizes their version of the bill and the two sides head to Conference.

Either way, it seems that it will take significant time to work out any modernization approach.  A related recent news article reveals that the Air Force continues to wrestle with how to modernize its logistics systems, even if they have begun to see how not to proceed from lessons learned with ECSS.

Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about 
GovWin FIA. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.


Pending FY 2014 NDAA Keeps Pressure on Air Force Logistics Systems Modernization

In a highly contested budget environment no department or agency wants their IT modernization program failures to come back to haunt them. But that may well be the case for the Air Force if a provision in the current House version of the FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) makes it through to the final bill.

The House passed their version of the FY 2014 NDAA, HR 1960, in June and the bill was received in the Senate shortly thereafter. But the full Senate has only begun debate on the bill this week and at the time of this writing any amendments and passage are still pending. Then the bill goes to conference committee for the two chambers to hammer out the final language for and up-or-down vote in each chamber.

The passed House version has some language that speaks directly to one of the challenges facing the Pentagon – how to effectively and economically modernize large enterprise systems, especially Air Force logistics systems.

Section 213—Limitation on Availability of Funds for Air Force Logistics Transformation

According to the House Armed Services Committee report, this section would restrict the obligation and expenditure of Air Force procurement and research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) funds for logistics information technology programs until 30 days after the Secretary of the Air Force submits to the congressional defense committees a report on the modernization and update of Air Force logistics information technology systems following the cancellation of the expeditionary combat support system.

The bill specifically states that not more than 50 percent of the FY 2014 procurement and RDT&E funds may be obligated or expended until 30 days after the Secretary of the Air Force submits the report, which is to include:

  1. Near-term strategies to address any capability gaps in logistics IT and longer-term modernization strategies for the period covered by the current future-years defense plan (FYPD);
  2. A root-cause analysis leading to the failure of the expeditionary combat support system (ECSS) program; and
  3. A plan of action to ensure that the lessons learned under such analysis are shared throughout the Department of Defense and the military departments and considered in program planning for similar logistics IT systems.


It was about a year ago that Congress took special note when the Air Force decided to cancel the Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) program after seven years and over $1 billion in spending without much to show for it. The announcement came in the first quarter of FY 2013, yet the Air Force reported total FY 2013 spending of $188 million on the program when the FY 2014 IT budget request was released the next spring.  While that budget request zeroed-out the program going forward it appears that with latest Defense Authorization the Hill is still watching with great interest for any revived modernization efforts at the Air Force.

These and other large enterprise-wide systems like ERPs continue to have mixed results at keeping up with the changing demands of a technically advancing military and doing so economically and with the demonstrable savings they promised. Although not called out in the NDAA, the GAO recently reviewed the Army’s Logistics Modernization Program (LMP) Increment 1 which cost roughly $1.4 billion through FY 2012. GAO determined that while some functional benefits had been achieved through LMP the Army has no accurate process in place to track financial benefits associated with the system.

In spite of the challenges, the persistent and enduring need to modernize legacy logistics systems at the Air Force remains, but it needs to be done with more realistic goals and expectations, effective and authoritative leadership, and well-defined requirements and plans.  The presence of such targeted language is likely evidence of ongoing discussions between key members of Congress and IT leadership at the Air Force in recognizing this need.

Originally published for Federal Industry Analysis: Analysts Perspectives Blog. Stay ahead of the competition by discovering more about 
GovWin FIA. Follow me on Twitter @GovWinSlye.

Anti-Access/Area Denial: Terms You Should Know

The Pentagon is working on a new operational concept called AirSea Battle (ASB). A central tenet of this concept is developing training, techniques, and technology that will enable U.S. forces to operate in contested environments where adversaries have implemented "Anti-Access/Area Denial" (A2/AD) measures. ASB will be important to the evolution of the DoD's operations globally, including the implementation of joint electronic warfare, information sharing, and cyber security capabilities.

If you are in the business of providing technology solutions to the Department of Defense and you haven’t yet come across the term “Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD)” be assured that you will soon.  A strategy being developed to counter A2/AD capabilities is currently making its way through the Pentagon and once the concepts are fully mature I expect they will help shape DoD IT investments in the decade to come.  For those not familiar with the term, A2/AD is part of a new operational concept called AirSea Battle (ASB).  It is defined as follows: “A2/AD capabilities are those which challenge and threaten the ability of U.S. and allied forces to both get to the fight and to fight effectively once there.”  Basically, A2/AD capabilities impede military operations in contested areas.

Why the focus on A2/AD?  For one thing, the technological prowess of global powers able to militarily compete with the United States on at least a regional basis is growing.  Think China and Russia in particular.  The rapid development of their electronic warfare capabilities has the Pentagon concerned about the possibility that U.S. forces could be denied access to areas of operations like Korea.  Secondly, U.S. armed forces depend more heavily than ever on networks at both the strategic and tactical levels to project power.  If access to network capabilities is denied, it would severely hamper the ability of U.S. forces to operate effectively.  Such an outcome is unacceptable, especially at a time when the U.S. is realigning forces in a “pivot to Asia” that relies heavily on satellite communications, sea power, and air forces.

In a tight market characterized by falling spending, the Pentagon’s focus on A2/AD means that vendors will need to remain focused on providing DoD customers with the latest electronic warfare, information sharing, and cyber security capabilities.  These should all remain areas of investment for the DoD despite declining budgets.  In addition, there is the legislative angle to consider.  A2/AD has crept into the draft National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2014.  One reference comes in connection with the DoD providing an assessment of Russia’s A2/AD capabilities (timely in light of events in Syria).  The second reference revises language from the 2013 NDAA calling for the DoD to develop an inventory of all tactical data link systems.  This revised language directs the DoD to also provide assessments of the vulnerabilities of TDL systems in A2/AD environments.

Earlier this year, FIA published a report in which we noted that Sec. 934 of the 2013 NDAA directs the DoD to carry out an inventory of TDL systems to determine whether the upgrade, new deployment, or replacement of the system should be competed and/or the data link should be converted to an open architecture or other standard that would enable such a competition.  Knowing the potential importance of TDLs to the nascent ASB operational concept strongly suggests that vendors who provide such solutions should keep an eye on how the DoD’s inventory of TDL’s evolves.

Barring the outbreak of a new war in the Middle East, budget conditions at the DoD are expected to tighten over the next decade.  In this environment it is important to understand the strategic developments that may drive spending on IT and other kinds of technology.  The requirements supporting the evolution of the new ASB strategy and congressionally mandated technology investments are excellent spending signposts in this time of heightened uncertainty.



Is More Power in the Hands of the CIO the Real Answer?

Most of the buzz around the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) to date has been positive, from both government and industry.  However, in late July there were indications that the White House might not support the legislation.  In addition, former commissioner of GSA’s Federal Technology Service wrote an FCW article expressing the possible downside of shifting all IT control to the CIO.

FITARA would make CIOs presidential appointees reporting to the agency head, and grant them personnel and budget authority for IT.  The legislation would codify many of the administration’s current IT initiatives, such as data center consolidation and promotion of strategic sourcing.  However, FITARA provisions lack coverage for the Defense Department.     

Bob Woods, president of Topside Consulting Group and former commissioner of GSA’s Federal Technology Service, doubts that giving all IT authority to the CIO will solve problems.  “How agencies will improve results by replacing a career CIO with one destined to last 27 months is baffling,” Woods wrote in a recent FCW article.  He believes in a team approach and allowing operations people closer to the missions to make decisions.  Woods thinks FITARA is “doomed to fail, because it is attacking symptoms, not root causes.”    

Federal CIO Steve VanRoekel said in a Federal News Radio interview,”I think it’s (FITARA) good, but I don’t know if it goes far enough.”  For the most part, VanRoekel and the administration have been mum regarding FITARA.  The legislation was attached as an amendment to the House version of the 2014 Defense Authorization Act, but was not mentioned in the Statement of Administration Policy issued on the bill.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) offered a rather blunt call for administration support of the bill during a hearing of the House subcommittee on Government Operations last week.  “It is the friendlies, the most sympathetic bill you will get out of Congress.  It is, in large measure, a codification in fact, of initiatives and reforms undertaken by the administration.  But, if the administration decides to spurn this legislation that has passed the House already, you are going to have problems on both sides of the aisle.”

In order for FITARA to become law, it would first need to pass the Senate.  The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee just passed its version of the Defense Authorization Bill in early June, but to date there has been no public discussion of adding FITARA as an amendment.  If the legislation passed the Senate, it would then go to the president for signature. 


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