Marine Corps pilots faster Windows 10 transition

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After a monthlong pilot of its mandatory move to Microsoft Windows 10, the U.S. Marine Corps said it is confident it will complete the transition prior to the deadline next year.

Earlier this spring, the Marine Corps Systems Command launched a test run of Windows 10 in a variety of the Corps’ end-user computing environments — some regularly connected to the garrison network and others that aren’t — to assess the systems’ varying needs. The MCSC conducted the pilot simultaneously in four regions — East, Reserves, National Capital Region and Headquarters Marine Corps — testing its virtualized image of Windows 10, according to a release.

The pilots follow some public doubts from senior marines earlier this year about the corps’ methodology for the transition.

“We targeted 500 clients (125 for each region),” Jeff Wiley, assistant product manager for engineering with Marine Corps Network and Infrastructure Services, said in the release.  “We deployed one Marine Corps Client Microsoft engineer and one MCSC engineer to each site, and they worked with the pilot groups to identify their varying needs and how to best address them.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work issued a memo in February ordering a rapid move by all elements of the huge department to a Windows 10 Secure Host Baseline by Jan. 31, 2017. The U.S. Cyber Command will lead the implementation. “This decision is based on the need to strengthen our cybersecurity posture while concurrently streamlining the IT operating environment,” Work wrote Feb. 26.

With the results of the pilots, the Marine Corps will work to get its Windows 10 image accredited and develop a checklist of how it will facilitate its roll out, either by upgrading software on capable machines or cycling in new systems that can support it. 

The latter is a big concern for the Marines, because tens of thousands of devices will need to be replaced before moving to Windows 10.

“With the accelerated timeline we’re expecting to upgrade more than 50,000 devices in FY16,” said Je Lee, product manager for Marine Corps Network and Infrastructure Services. “This compresses almost three years of tech refresh into only six months.”

[Read more: Marine Corps: Path to Windows 10 unclear.]

Earlier this year, however, a top Marine expressed his personal doubts on the transition. 

“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 a January 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.” 

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?”

But with the results of the pilot and an aggressive plan in place, the Marines seem to believe they will meet the deputy secretary’s accelerated orders.

“Implementing Windows 10 servicewide has been on our radar for some time,” said Michael Cirillo, cyber lead for Marine Corps Systems Command said this week. “The compressed timeline just speeds up the process for full implementation, making us more secure sooner.”

Contact the reporter on this story via email at Billy.Mitchell@FedScoop.com or follow him on Twitter @BillyMitchell89. Subscribe to the Daily Scoop to get all the federal IT news you need in your inbox every morning at fdscp.com/sign-me-on.

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Applications & Software, Bob Work, Department of Defense (DOD), Departments, Marines, Tech
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