Joint Staff’s new initiatives in cyber and defense IT will have DOD-wide impact
MG Mark Bowman is the director of command, control, communications and computers (C4) for the Joint Staff, as well as its chief information officer. He assumed the assignment in January, a transition from his prior position as director of architecture, operations, networks and space at the Army CIO/G6 office.
As the Joint Staff J6, Bowman now heads the newly re-established J6 directorate, which was disbanded two years ago by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates along with Joint Forces Command and the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Networks and Information Integration group. The J6 was resuscitated with additional responsibilities “due to the increased importance of and dependence upon information technology and the networks,” according to the March 29 memo that re-established the J6 directorate.
Additionally, the director of C4 is now also the Joint Staff CIO (a job that previously fell under the Joint Staff vice director), as well as director of Joint Staff Information Technology Transformation. As such, all personnel who provide day-to-day IT services for SIPRNet and NIPRNet now work for the new J6 directorate.
Bowman is also leading DOD’s efforts to develop a “Future Joint Information Enterprise, and co-leading the defense department’s “IT effectiveness” effort with Teri Takai’s Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) CIO office.
Bowman discussed the rationale behind the re-establishment of the Joint Staff’s J6 directorate with Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Barry Rosenberg, and also addressed new initiatives related to enterprise architecture and IT efficiency.
DS: What were the macro issues driving the re-establishment of the J6?
Bowman: We have had three significant changes over the last 10 years. They are the dependence on the network has never been higher, the cyber threat continues to get more common yet more severe and more pervasive than it ever was before and the physical environment is demanding IT efficiency [while at the same time] we are going to have less money to spend of everything to include IT.
DS: Part of your charter is to help the military move to everything over IP. What are your initial plans?
Bowman: This is a significant change to the way we had done things in the past where everybody worked in their own stovepipe. To transition to everything over IP we could take the approach where we stop what we are doing and reprogram ongoing efforts such as data-center consolidation, enterprise e-mail and unified communications, or we can capitalize on the efforts that the services are already working on and that are already funded for the next couple year by going in [with an everything over IP strategy] in an effective and deliberate manner.
DS: One of your immediate assignments is to transform IT on the Joint Staff. How will you go about that?
Bowman: There are ways that we can be more effective and efficient, and we are driving to do those now. These include rationalizing applications, doing away with applications that aren’t used enough or are too costly to maintain, consolidating buys on IT equipment and reviewing all IT contracts, and moving to thin clients.
We are going to significantly increase the amount of thin client on the Joint Staff.
And the reason is not only because it’s cheaper in the long run, but because of the increased security associated with. We can apply patches in minutes and seconds; we could change an operating system if we wanted to overnight. Whereas with the current PC-based fat clients, when somebody’s computer is turned off, for example, it doesn’t get updates until it’s plugged into the network again. So inherently, the thin client is more secure than the fat client approach.
DS: So none of these things was on the plate two years ago when the J6 directorate went away. You’ve developed these plans since then?
Bowman: You are correct, but I would like to define the “you developed” part. I didn’t come here saying I wanted to stand the J6 back up. I was asked to take this job. Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins (who was the Joint Staff deputy director of C4 before being named DISA director) started the IT effectiveness effort at the direction of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The decision was made that he and the OSD CIO would lead it. He did the first pitch, and then we just carried the effort on and continue to drive towards completion. When I got here they had just finished a commercially run study on what we had for IT in the Joint Staff. It gave us ideas on gaining efficiencies, and it was directed by the J8 (Force Structure, Resources and Assessment Directorate). I happened to be the J8 person who sat with the director when he received his outbrief on that study, and he told me some of it was rolling under the J6.
DS: How will you and the J6 directorate begin the process of bringing this joint information environment to the services?
Bowman: With the joint information environment, we have a collective group of over 100 people that are working this from the services, the combatant commands and the agencies to develop the plan of action and milestones on how we are going to get to this joint information environment. So this is a collective, concerted effort on the part of everybody that we are going to have to execute together as a team.
And at one point in time you are going to have one service in front of another one for a very, very good reasons…how far along they are on enterprise e-mail, for instance. Army is going to be way out front of everybody else because they started first.
DS: Following the Army in enterprise e-mail is the Joint Staff, which recently began its own migration. Tell me about the progress.
Bowman: After running two pilots, which included users at the Pentagon, Hampton Roads and Eglin AFB, Fla., the Joint Staff started its transition to enterprise e-mail. In less than a month, we are 97 percent complete in our migration. The remaining accounts will be migrated by the end of June. The migration has gone remarkably smooth. We also have the first thin client users on enterprise e-mail. Performance in that environment is also very good. All in all, we are extremely pleased with enterprise e-mail performance and DISA support.
DS: Other services, the Navy and Marines, in particular, aren’t so keen about going to DISA-managed enterprise e-mail.
Bowman: Here is my view. Navy was the first to go to enterprise when they went to NMCI. They didn’t have the best experience. So there are a lot of guys saying, no, we don’t want to go that way with DISA. But DISA is proving that they are, in fact, good at it. The entire Army staff is on enterprise e-mail now. It’s working. It’s a significant change from what we had in the past.
But from the point of view of figuring out how everybody is set up at different posts, camps and stations, the Navy is way ahead in that regard. They have already drawn down the number of applications they use, and figured out what they have to transition. So, although some of the lessons they have learned were painful, it postures them for future success.
And every one of us has to learn from those lessons that they had. In the end, though, I cannot see how a service can say that they can provide the same service and do it cheaper than the enterprise approach.
DS: It is the commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) elements of the enterprise e-mail solution from Microsoft, for example, that makes it cheaper. Some in industry have expressed concern, however, that the military is lining up on a technical solution that creates a long-term marriage with Microsoft.
Bowman: Yes, COTS is the perfect example of a better way to do acquisition and stay inside the Moore's Law cycle, as opposed to developing things ourselves. I have said at conferences before that the fact that we are converging on Microsoft products today is good. If somebody comes up with a better e-mail system in the future, it’s easier to switch as an enterprise than it is to switch as a bunch of posts, camps and stations all on different versions.
So the same goes for DISA. People said that we sole sourced to DISA. We did not; they are another government activity and we just transferred the mission to them. Now, that said, if there is another commercial entity or DOD organization that can provide the service with better quality and at a cheaper rate, then it is much easier to switch an enterprise to an enterprise than it is to switch a bunch of constellations.