Army lays out future IT planning

Under a new strategic framework, the Army IT Agency consolidating more Pentagon IT -- and pursuing leading-edge technologies for the future.

The Army IT Agency has released a new strategic plan covering the next four years that will guide the service through high-profile moves in IT consolidation, cybersecurity and the implementation of new, cutting-edge technologies.

The guidance provides for force agility, better information-sharing, secured infrastructure and mission execution amid dwindling resources, incorporating enterprise solutions to save money and improve efficiency, according to Army ITA Executive Director Donald Adcock.

“As resources become more scrutinized and less and less [available], it’s going to drive these changes. For the first time ever, or maybe the first time in a long time, we actually have that change agent we need,” Adcock said. “We’re coming out of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; the budget is shrinking; and the Defense Department has to reshape. Now we have that driving force factor to make these changes.”

Those changes in the near term include assessing and instituting service costs and levels, such as those for help desk capabilities, and investment in enterprise technologies, such as desktop virtualization across the Pentagon and nearby DOD facilities.

Army ITA’s experience in data center consolidation, virtualization and IT security is being maximized under the plan – and is also being adopted at other organizations, including the intelligence community and the Joint Staff, Adcock said.

The agency is also getting work done around the Pentagon: Common-area wifi access has recently been rolled out, along with a commensurate wireless intrusion detection system to secure it that is the largest in the world, according to Adcock, who also said a unified communications program is in the pilot phase.

Adcock’s agency is also defending Pentagon networks, which see an average of 500 intrusion events per second, according to Darren King, Army ITA director of enterprise information and mission assurance.

“Securing the Pentagon is a daunting task,” King said. “It’s one of the most complex networks; it’s a dynamic enterprise. It changes on a daily basis, the threats change on a daily basis and the vulnerabilities change on a daily basis.”

King added that use of social media inside Pentagon walls has “doubled or tripled” the number of intrusion events DOD networks see, and that’s something Army ITA coordinates with a number of other agencies on, including the other service’s cyber components.

“There is always someone scanning our vulnerabilities,” he said.

But beyond the exercises in belt-tightening the agency is preparing for more forward-looking technologies and capabilities

Adcock said the agency is exploring unified communications through a new pilot program, and in the future hopes his organization will be able to implement cutting-edge technologies like “lifi,” which transmits connectivity through fluorescent lights rather than traditional wifi signals that can’t be used in some areas of the Pentagon. He’s also optimistic about capabilities that will underpin a DOD-wide “bring your own device” policy that can securely support all platforms and devices.

While some of those futuristic capabilities are slated for the later years of the Army ITA strategic plan, they could end up arriving sooner, Adock said.

“That’s not slated until 2016….but I think most people would say I may be forced to move faster than that, and I agree with that. But this is just the framework to prep the environment,” he said. “Policy is the biggest thing.”

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