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The Joint Information Environment (JIE) Begins Taking Shape

Published: May 01, 2013

USAFARMYCloud ComputingContract AwardsDEFENSEDISAJoint Information Environment (JIE)NAVY

Officials at the Department of Defense mention the Joint Information Environment (JIE) in practically every briefing and interview, but details concerning what the JIE is and where work related to it is being done are not easy to find. This post attempts to provide details around progress DISA is making on the JIE and where work is being carried out.

Over the last two years, the Department of Defense’s effort to create a new Joint Information Environment (JIE) has been in the news a lot.  The JIE is mentioned in practically every briefing and interview with DoD officials, but details concerning what the JIE is and where work related to the JIE is being done are hard to come by.  In this post I will attempt to provide some substance to the elusive JIE and in the process point out a few areas where I see work happening.

First, what is the JIE?  My rudimentary understanding is that the JIE is a common set of technology standards, products, and open architectural approaches that are being implemented to enable system interoperability, enhance security, and make capabilities available to any DoD end-user on any approved device.  In short, the JIE is the DoD-wide version of common operating environments/pictures that many federal agencies are currently implementing.  In the DoD’s case, work toward the JIE is going on at all levels.  The Military Departments are working on it in their own network convergences (e.g., LandWarNet, NMCI/NextGen, and AFNET) and, generally speaking, work at the Defense agency level is being directed by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).  Given the size of this topic, this discussion will be limited to outlining some of the work going on at DISA.

DISA’s JIE Strategy

Back in August 2012, DISA released its Global Information Grid (GIG) Convergence Master Plan (GCMP), a strategy document that outlined the agency’s vision for the JIE.  GCMP sections 2.1 through 2.3 described the following objectives that DISA is seeking to achieve.  Readers please note I’ve changed a little of the language in the DISA document to cut down the amount of text:

Short-term objectives

  1. Provide common user services and platform services through consolidation of infrastructure and existing software licenses.
  2. Provide two private clouds: an unclassified DoD cloud and a classified DoD cloud.
  3. Improve end-user device access by migrating end-user applications to the cloud and migrating end-users to a Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI) environment.

Mid-term objectives

  1. Develop methods, when using commercial cloud service providers, which protect data in transit and at rest, authenticate users, and apply appropriate access controls.
  2. Provide virtual container technologies supporting secure unclassified operating environments on a wider variety of approved end-user devices.

Long-term objectives

  1. Move to a commercial-government hybrid cloud computing environment with DoD retaining the identity provider role.
  2. Improve service interoperability across core, intermediate and tactical edge environments.

Achieving the Short-Term Objectives

Although DISA laid out these objectives in short, mid, and long terms, each stage is interrelated and in some cases DISA appears to be working toward all terms simultaneously.  Starting with Short-Term Objective #1, DISA, the Air Force, and the Army awarded the 3 year, $617 million Joint Enterprise License Agreement for Microsoft products last December.  Meanwhile, as mentioned above, infrastructure consolidation efforts are ongoing at both the Defense agencies and in the Military Departments.  An example of this would be the ongoing effort to integrate the networks of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and U.S. European Command (EUCOM).

As for the effort to establish the private clouds mentioned as Short-Term Objective #2, this is proceeding at a slower pace. DISA announced just last month that it has developed a process for gathering and assessing mission partner requirements and establishing contract evaluation criteria for an Enterprise Cloud Service Catalog.  This suggests that competitions for cloud computing contracts by DISA are likely to be coming in FY 2014.  DISA also began laying the groundwork to address Short-Term Objective #3 by awarding a sole source contract in April 2013 to Jackpine Technologies.  Under this contract, Jackpine will continue developing combined milCloud and Infrastructure-as-a-Service capabilities resulting in the delivery of an ALVE (Application Lifecycle Virtualization Environment) that will support DISA's Agile, Rapid Development and Deployment Model.  The migration of users to a Virtual Desktop Interface (VDI) is the one area of this plan that seems to be moving ahead at the slowest pace.  One potential area of progress is the Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) for a Mobile Device Common-Access-Card-Enabled Thin Client solution that DISA released in September 2012.  Under this BAA multiple vendors will provide innovative solutions for Common Access Card (CAC)-enabled virtual thin client solutions for managed and unmanaged mobile devices.  Presumably, these solutions would also address the requirement for virtual container technologies listed as Mid-Term Objective #2.

Achieving the Mid-Term Objectives

Regarding Mid-Term Objective #1, work to be performed under the mobile device CAC enabled thin client BAA discussed above would address these requirements.  Similarly, DISA’s Program Executive Office Mission Assurance and Network Operations recently released a Sources Sought Notice for Community Data Center (CDC) and Sensor Operations.  Under this contract, the industry partner will support Centaur Operations within the Community Data Center.  Centaur Operations protects and defends the JIE, DoD Enterprise Services, and the GIG through the maintenance of network sensors and tools that gather terabytes of data.  Fulfilling this requirement entails designing, building, and maintaining cloud based multi-petabyte parallel distributed files systems and “big data” analytics.

Achieving the Long-Term Objectives

Concerning the longer-term objectives, it appears DISA will fulfill these by building on solutions that it acquires in the short and mid-term.  For example, achieving Long-Term Objective #1 is fulfilled by DISA’s efforts to stand up commercial cloud and cloud broker offerings, as well as through the CDC and Sensor Operations acquisition.  This leaves Long-Term Objective #2, enabling interoperability across core, intermediate and tactical edge environments.  This goal will only be achieved when work being done across the Military Departments’ networks reaches a sufficient level of maturity.  In DISA’s case, however, the agency recently took a big step in this direction by awarding a $45 million sole source Blanket Purchasing Agreement to Alliance Technology Group for Large Data Object Storage.  The LDOS capability will provide the foundation for an ISR Storage Cloud that enables the sharing and analysis of ISR data across all components of the DoD.

In conclusion, work on the JIE is just getting started.  Mobile computing and communication solutions, for example, will also be part of the JIE.  However, DISA is expected to award contracts for this requirement soon. Industry can remain confident that more requirements are sure to come.