Pentagon IT leaders push for more collaboration across agencies

Army CIO Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell detailed his push for collaboration in the coming months and years. (FedScoop)


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IT staff at the Department of Defense are planning a major push to encourage communication and collaboration among its agencies over the next few years.

At FedScoop’s FedTalks event Tuesday, leaders from the Army and the Pentagon CIO’s office laid out their plans for unifying disparate agencies within the vast, sprawling department — working toward the common goals of saving money and enabling better communication with service members scattered around the world.

“Right now, in DOD, we have too many disparate networks, too many vulnerabilities for our adversaries to exploit and too many firewalls and barriers between our partners,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell, chief information officer for the Army. “We’ve had a hard time building an IT system to communicate with each other.”

Part of the effort to simultaneously build collaboration and security is the Army’s partnership with the Air Force and Defense Information Systems Agency to create joint regional security stacks, a new system that Ferrell called a “firewall on steroids.”

The new set-up will centralize the provision and security of networks regionally, rather than spreading out architectures across multiple individual military bases or camps.

Ferrell hopes to soon have 23 regional sites set up to process unclassified traffic and 25 sites to handle classified data, and he’s excited about their potential to make the Army’s network more secure by cutting down on access points.

“We’re going reduce our network surface attack area from about 1,000 separate access points to about 50, which is really a big deal in our business,” Ferrell said.

David DeVries, principal deputy CIO of the department, added that consolidating the various architectures will make it easier for him to refresh technology as the need arises.

“I need to be able to drop and insert technology as mergers and acquisitions happen and technology changes,” DeVries said.

Ferrell noted that he’s also wants to work with some of the department’s other agencies to merge data centers, a strategy that he said has resulted in the Army shuttering 48 percent of its data centers and reaping the benefits of the resulting savings.

DeVries applauded that push, but cautioned that there’s still more room for teamwork to keep that process moving.

“None of us can do this alone,” DeVries said. “I can’t close down data centers without the services who own those data centers.”

Moving forward, Ferrell also hopes to work more closely with DISA to better unify the Army’s communications, with an emphasis on beefing up its voice and data capabilities to raise the bar for communications across the globe.

“We want users get more capability more quickly, all the way down to soldiers fighting on the battlefield,” Ferrell said.

Read the rest of our 2015 FedTalks coverage:

Tony Scott: Cybersecurity means sharing more than just information

DISA to make cloud and mobile enabled networks 2016 priority

Blackberry taking ‘balanced’ approach to encryption, lawful intercept

IT leaders discuss cybersecurity, innovation at 2015 FedTalks


Watch our TV coverage of FedTalks 2015:

Social Security’s Herb Strauss on meeting citizens’ demands

DOT CIO Richard McKinney on his ‘sense of urgency’ with FITARA

CIO John Owens discusses DevOps at USPTO

EPA’s Ann Dunkin on her love for FITARA


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Army, Cybersecurity, Defense Information Systems Agency, Department of Defense (DOD), Departments, JIE
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