New DoD CIO Halvorsen Point to a “Fascinating” FY 2016 IT Budget

Published: June 17, 2014

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The new acting CIO at the Department of Defense (DoD), Terry Halvorsen, is not wasting any time in bringing to bear many of his ideas from his tenure as Navy CIO. With just a month behind him, Halvorsen is already on the record with ways he wants to push defense in the direction of a leaner and more focused technology strategy and implementation.

Halvorsen gave the morning keynote at a recent AFCEA NOVA Naval IT Day and covered a range of topics from the Joint Information Environment (JIE) to acquisitions. Some of the points I took away from his comments include:

  • JIE – The push to JIE is progressing, but will need to do so with affordability in mind, answering the questions – what can we execute and in what timeline, and what’s the biggest bang for buck. Each step in the process will need to be well-defined, discrete, “cost-able,” and affordable. He sees them moving toward a single security architecture and trying to collapse the existing security stack.

  • IT Infrastructure – While the Pentagon does need to keep their hardware and network equipment updated, how they do this affordably and make the infrastructure robust enough to do what we need to support the mission will be central concerns. Infrastructure investments will take funds away from other areas and they will need to clearly understand the connections, impacts, and way forward. Halvorsen stressed that not all defense areas are at the same level of IT maturity, so they need to determine how they will level-set the infrastructure in view of cost and other priorities.

  • Leveraging Commercial Offerings – The DoD is working toward the approval of standards to allow Level 3 and Level 4 data to be stored in commercial spaces. They are working through the standards, performance factors, security, etc. Performance is a major driver for these considerations.  No data storage standards are off the table. He anticipates seeing commercial platforms hosted in government facilities. Regarding security standards, they are working to identify what is the minimal level of security required to accept the risk to the mission.

  • IT Rationalization – Too many DoD systems do the same things and many have 80% data element commonality across them. This duplication leads to waste and data integrity issues. Some of these systems must be eliminated or consolidated.  A tandem focus is on DoD process improvement as IT efforts must be done in sync with business processes. If done right, reducing the number will speed up the network, be easier to secure, and save cost.

  • Business-based score cards – Halvorsen wants to greater visibility into what the DoD is buying and what they’re paying to bring a greater degree of scrutiny. They have begun that process with enterprise software license consolidation. One impact is that it will be a more competitive market. One goal is to shift funds from their business systems side to weapons systems to support mission.

  • Data Transparency – This is key to IT success. The Pentagon and MILDEPS want the same thing in performance/price. DoD needs transparency in the data so they can compare and see what’s working. IT decisions must be data driven to be effective and successful, and that means data standards and transparency. Then they will “power down” to get decisions down to the lowest level practical, closest to the impact. (Transparency was a unifying theme throughout his presentation.)

  • Risk Tolerance – The DoD is not going to take risk on C2 or weapons systems, but they must take some risks on the business systems because that is from where they need to take money to support the mission. He believes that the DoD needs to be OK with taking small risks, even getting some things wrong along the way, in order to get the bigger things right.

  • New Tech Insertion – He is working on ways the DoD talks with industry to bring in new technologies. The requires being in sync  with AT&L and figuring out the balance between what the Pentagon can get for innovation budgets and how they can contain cost and be disciplined. The days are gone when DoD doesn’t have a disciplined innovation plan.

  • Collaboration Mindset – Halvorsen wants to push a greater sense of partnership between industry and DoD. In his view, both need this partnership mentality to be successful and drive long-term health of the DoD mission as well as the DIB. Fostering this is more about cultural change in the Pentagon than technological barriers.

Halvorsen used term “fascinating” when describing the upcoming FY 2016 budget request, intimating the challenges it poses and the likely pain that will be felt. He set the expectation that they would have less money and seek to put it to more disciplined use. This was a common theme in recent Navy IT budgets over the last few years and it surely is one of the biggest reasons he has been tapped to lead defense-wide IT.