Marine Corps: Path to Windows 10 unclear

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The Marine Corps will comply with the Department of Defensewide order to update all Microsoft machines to Windows 10 by 2017 — but hasn’t yet figured out how, a top marine said.

“Windows 10 is huge. It’s going to have some significant security advantages for us,” Ron Zich, executive assistant for command, control, communications and computers at the Marine Corps headquarters, said at an AFCEA NOVA luncheon. 

“The Marine Corps is all in on getting it done. If you asked me today, ‘Can we get there?’ [The answer would be:] Absolutely. We just don’t know how yet.” 

Last November, Defense Department Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen issued a memo to defense agencies and military branches to update their Microsoft-based operating systems to Windows 10 by Jan. 1, 2017. A further order is expected soon from Defense Secretary Ash Carter on the requirements for a Windows 10 secure host baseline.

“It is important for the Department to rapidly transition to Microsoft Windows 10 in order to improve our cybersecurity posture, lower the cost of IT, and streamline IT operating environment,” Halvorsen wrote in his memo

The issue for the Marine Corps, Zich explained, is the growing number of systems — he said it could be upward of 130,000 — that would need to be updated combined with the complexity of multiple interconnected networks and machines.  

“Sounds simple enough, if I had to do it at home,” Zich said. “But we’ve got 90,000 unclassified computers, probably another 30,000 tactical computers, we have programs and records, think of every sort of vehicle — everything is connected now, so how do I do this?”

This move was at the top of his list during his keynote presentation of IT-focused projects the corps is working on as part of its Seamless Marine Corps Enterprise Network, a centralized network-of-networks that ensures Marines are connected from garrison — that is, stateside — all the way to the battlefield, and everywhere in between. Marines CIO Brig. Gen. Dennis Crall said in November that his branch is focusing first and foremost on building out this network before integrating it with the defensewide network plan for the Joint Information Environment. 

For the migration to Windows 10, the plan now is to “take the low-hanging fruit first,” Zich said. “We get our lessons learned, and then we’re going to start nibbling away at harder projects.”

“We’re moving out,” he added. “We’re going to do it.” 

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Department of Defense (DOD), Departments, Marines
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