Brace for shift
Gen. George Casey, the Army’s chief of staff, frequently speaks about how we have entered a period of persistent conflict. Global conditions have spawned issues that challenge the U.S. military and place greater demands on the Defense Department’s information technology capabilities to support forces around the clock in rapidly changing but always demanding tasks.
It’s also a realm in which new risks, such as cyber warfare, call for new investments and military structures. As part of a major restructuring, the Air Force is creating career paths for cyber operators and unmanned aerial system operators to meet those challenges.
“I’m really encouraged by the focus the services are putting on the organize, train and equip part,” said Gen. Kevin Chilton, commander of the Strategic Command, speaking of the Air Force’s and Army’s new cyber commands. “I’m impatient in that I would like to see that happen faster. And I’m in need of more people to conduct this mission area.”
But those demands are about to run headlong into what is becoming one of the biggest turning points in current U.S. politics: the transition from one administration to another in the midst of what is becoming a deepening economic crisis. Regardless of who wins the election, DOD will face even more significant demands on its budget and louder calls for a more efficient force.
Therefore, every technology investment will face scrutiny, and every program will find increasing congressional oversight. Shifts in the political climate will require better program management, wider adoption of process improvement techniques, and greater leadership to reprioritize projects and choose areas for investment.
Those changes are already happening at DOD. For example, the Army’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems is spearheading several projects that are crucial to the transformation of the Army’s IT from garrison to front line — including the Network Service Center initiative and Army Knowledge Online, to name two.
As Gary Winkler, program executive officer at PEO-EIS, said in this month’s Defense Systems Interview, “all boundaries within the Army enterprise are blurring. You cannot have an efficient, effective enterprise where boundaries exist.”
Sean Gallagher is senior contributing editor for Defense Systems.