Army upgrades infrastructure on many fronts

PEO-EIS seeks to harness dramatic efficiencies in information services delivery

Gary Winkler, a member of the Senior Executive Service since 2003, has been program executive officer for enterprise information systems at Fort Belvoir, Va., since late 2007. He is responsible for program management of Defense Department and Army business and combat service support systems, in addition to Army communications and computer infrastructure.

Winkler met recently with Defense Systems Contributing Editor Barry Rosenberg to discuss PEO-EIS’ activities in the Haiti relief effort, the upcoming request for proposals for the Area Processing Centers and lessons learned in recent implementations of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

DS: What’s at the top of your to-do list at the moment?

Winkler: Right now, one of the most important things is providing support to the Haitian relief efforts. Several of my [project managers] have deployed systems and technical support to Haiti. We have provided small transportable satellites to the more remote areas to keep the communications open. We are working with representatives from all the services to bring supplies to the victims. Our transportation systems are helping move cargo and supplies, and our radio frequency identification systems let us know where the supplies are at all times. We also deployed our medical casualty care system so medics in the field can record and transmit records to field hospitals. These systems have been invaluable in other natural disasters such as Katrina, and we’re here to assist in any way we can.

Other top priorities include supporting the Iraq Responsible Withdrawal and the buildup of troops and support in Afghanistan. Many of our systems — Movement Tracking System, Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care, Transportation Information Systems (TIS), and Biometrics — will stay as long as units remain in Iraq. PM TIS is currently providing Automated Movement Flow Tracking-In Transit Visibility support that is heavily used to track retrograde equipment out of Iraq. Simultaneously, we are relocating equipment and personnel from Iraq to Afghanistan, improving Afghanistan's communications infrastructure with PDAs and smart phones, and facilitating management and coordination of transportation services, movement and convoy planning, and unit asset management. As transfer of authority to Afghanistan increases, so does PEO-EIS involvement.

I have a big push right now to provide mobile capability to our soldiers. My PM for Army Knowledge Online/Defense Knowledge Online (AKO/DKO) is in the final phase of testing the AKO Go Mobile capability that securely extends AKO capabilities to handheld devices. This capability is based on smart phone technology, enabling users to wirelessly access their AKO/DKO accounts. Go Mobile includes compact, portable devices that provide officelike capabilities such as a full QWERTY keyboard, battery-powered pocket projector, viewing goggles, a printstick, and solar chargers that all fit into a solar-powered backpack. Go Mobile truly gives our soldiers the ability to take their office with them wherever they go.

DS: I understand you are issuing a couple of contracts later this year for area processing. What do you hope to achieve with the enterprise e-mail and the Area Processing Center RFPs?

Winkler: We are preparing to release solicitations on a number of major efforts this spring. These include engaging industry to assist with the deployment of and migration to a global Active Directory infrastructure and enterprise e-mail.

The intent of our enterprise e-mail effort is to procure a commercially provided Microsoft exchange service, leveraging the Army’s significant investment in MS Exchange licensing and software assurance. This allows us to centralize and streamline the current, disparate Exchange implementation on the unclassified portion of the Army’s network, which has the most users. This first procurement is a risk mitigation effort for the Army. We will obtain commercially managed Microsoft Exchange Services for a subset of the Army in order to develop lessons learned, business processes and risk mitigation strategies before we move to procure a managed solution for the entire Army.

The Area Processing Center RFP will establish a blanket purchase agreement for a range of application hosting and migration services. We want to set up this business arrangement so that application owners can find the most cost-effective and operationally supportable hosting solution for their particular requirements. It is our intent to access the dramatic efficiencies in information service delivery that the corporate environment has seen over the last three to five years.

DS: What new communications capabilities have you fielded during the past six to 12 months?

Winkler: We look at progress a couple of different ways: How much capability have we put into the hands of soldiers and what have we accomplished in our large enterprise IT programs? I am very pleased with the capabilities we have provided during the past 12 months. We fielded communications systems, business and warfighting applications to 2 million users worldwide; modernized 1 million square feet of Pentagon office space; and deployed five Reserve Component Automated System software releases supporting 100,000 users in mobilization, force structure, personnel management, safety and occupational health.

We fielded 16,854 combat-service-support automated information systems interface modules to 439 tactical units and 945 very-small-aperture terminals to 236 tactical units supporting over 70,000 warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan. We also fielded 17,000 Vehicle Identification Systems for combat vehicles; 4,766 Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care systems to automate military health care and soldier records from the battlefield all the way back to the Veterans Affairs Department; and 940 new distance learning courses. That is a lot of capability.

We have also been successful in updating and modernizing the Army’s installation infrastructure to support the dramatic increase in the need for bandwidth. In 2009 alone, we implemented 69 infrastructure upgrades supporting over 500,000 end-users on posts, camps and stations worldwide. This year, we are continuing to upgrade installation infrastructure through another 68 projects.

DS: You’ve introduced a number of business/ERP systems during the past year, including the General Fund Enterprise Business System (GFEBS), the Logistics Modernization Program (LMP) and the Global Combat Support System–Army (GCSS-Army). Please bring me up-to-date on those programs.

Winkler: Last year, our financial system, GFEBS, obtained a successful Milestone C decision, which moves it closer to full fielding. GFEBS maintained a proactive deployment schedule, serving over 1,500 users in four deployments this year, and successfully completing fiscal 2009 year-end close-out for approximately 1 million transitions representing $1.2 billion dollars.

LMP also achieved excellent results last year. In May 2009, the LMP enterprise doubled as the system was expanded to 6,000 additional users at the Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command, Corpus Christi and Letterkenny Army depots, and the Army Materiel Command’s National Maintenance Program.

GCSS-Army, our tactical supply and maintenance ERP system, is progressing and will begin developmental test and evaluation at the National Training Center in July. This will be followed in September with an Operational Assessment of Release 1.1, which will include maintenance, property accountability, unit supply and select tactical logistic financial functions. Following Milestone C in February 2011, we will begin full deployment.

DS: One project that has not gone as smoothly is DOD’s Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System. Where are you at with that program?

Winkler: DIMHRS was to provide a single, fully integrated personnel and pay system for all the services, with the Army version scheduled to roll out in 2009. However, development stalled and was in a holding pattern for much of last year until DOD decided to transfer the project to each of the services for their individual completion. The Defense Acquisition Executive gave the green light last fall for PEO-EIS to go ahead and develop the Army’s integrated personnel and pay system. Since then, we have kick-started the effort, completing a functional and technical analysis of the existing product. We are currently developing an acquisition strategy and upgrading to the most current commercial version of Oracle PeopleSoft 9.1. The Army remains committed to ensuring that this solution is developed and fully functional as quickly as possible, and we are pleased to finally be able to move forward with this system.

DS: Going back to some of the ERP efforts you mentioned earlier, such as GFEBS and LMP, what are the lessons learned so far?

Winkler: We identified several lessons learned during the past year and are incorporating them in future deployments. Although GFEBS’ first full year of operation was a success, there were some growing pains. The program office, stakeholders and gaining organizations worked collaboratively to reach this important milestone and continually improve the predeployment process. Following GFEBS Release 1.3 fielding in April 2009, GFEBS leadership began a six-month strategic review cycle to compile lessons learned from their release and other DOD SAP deployments, including the LMP and the Navy ERP Program. Specifically, the review focused on the overall GFEBS deployment strategy, in addition to looking at how well it positioned the Army to sustain the GFEBS transformation after go-live. All aspects of the GFEBS deployment and transformation were considered.

The outcome of the strategic review period resulted in the improvement of the role mapping, training and data conversion processes. Additionally, it increased the effectiveness of the deployment strategy, lengthening the timeline to 15 months and providing the appropriate time needed to prepare sites for deployment and ensure sustainability of the product. The impact of these changes will be fully assessed with the next major deployment in April 2010.

The LMP release was very successful. Representatives from the Government Accountability Office declared that LMP’s 2009 deployment was “light years ahead of the first deployment.” LMP uses a comprehensive risk assessment and mitigation strategy that covers all aspects of the deployments. By leveraging lessons learned, LMP is working to ensure customer operations are not disrupted by deployment activities and the transition to LMP is smooth, while improving readiness to the warfighter.

We also recognized the need to synchronize not only the ERP deployments but all fieldings so we are not deploying two systems/releases to one installation at the same time.

In 2010, GFEBS anticipates receiving a full deployment decision. LMP’s third deployment is scheduled to occur in October 2010 to more than 7,000 users at Army Materiel Command’s Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, Life Cycle Management Command, Joint Munitions and Lethality Command, and the Army Sustainment Command.

The focus going forward for the ERP programs will be to continue with the deployments and integrate the systems for the future. The Business Transformation Agency has been instrumental in defining and standardizing Army business end-to-end processes so that there is a single design model that defines processes for all of the systems. A single model ensures consistency in business process flow and identifies ideal process segments and behaviors of various ERP solutions.

DS: What are the next steps?

Winkler: Next steps include configuring our implementation approaches to bring us to an integrated ERP environment as much as possible. Aligning ERP programs under the Project Manager for Army Enterprise Systems Integration Program allows for better management of scope and cross application integration.

To achieve greater stakeholder confidence and a strong sense of customer ownership, Army ERP programs will conduct discovery labs, business design workshops, and other education and training sessions. Several trial loads will test migrated legacy data against the new solution and the programs will keep the lines of communication open with stakeholders to ensure all are aware and involved.

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