With the United States out of Iraq and the U.S. military drawing down in Afghanistan, much is changing across the Defense Department. That includes one area of defense technology that came of age during the wars in Southwest Asia: unmanned aerial vehicles.
As the U.S. pulls out, what will happen to all these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that came to play a critical part in the conflict?
DOD’s fleet is expected to shrink along with the rest of the wartime military. Some UAV programs will be shuttered along with the forward-operating bases and other combat-zone operations. Others will continue development and potentially serve in future roles and incarnations.
They all pose a “managerial issue,” according to a top DOD official.
“There will be things that we built up for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that are not worth keeping in the force structure, because they’ll be outdated or they’re not suited to more contested air environments,” Ashton Carter, deputy defense secretary, said May 30 at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “Afghanistan is not a contested air environment; you can fly around as much as you want. That won’t be the case everywhere in the world.”
Some UAV programs were developed and deployed quickly, with less-than-perfect features and capabilities. Those will likely face sunset. Others, like the Reaper and the Liberty turbo-prop fleet, will be part of the enduring force structure, Carter said.
But for the UAVs that will live on, DOD must determine how to make them work in the future military. That includes figuring out how to man, train and equip the UAVs of tomorrow.
“That’s an example of the transition [that we face], and it has the man-unmanned transition aspect to that also. So there are a lot of difficult adjustments going on here at the same time,” Carter said.
Posted on May 31, 2012 at 12:54 PM2 comments
The Army has once again resumed migrating accounts to its enterprise e-mail system as of March 19, after Congress ordered a suspension of operations in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, according to the Army deputy CIO.
“The Army [enterprise e-mail] report was delivered to Congress on Feb. 16, 2012. The Secretary of the Army certified that the Army's acquisition approach is in the best technical and financial interests of the Army, and provides for the maximum amount of competition possible,” Mike Krieger said in a post on the Army CIO blog. “The Army’s acquisition of DOD [enterprise e-mail] services is now a formal acquisition program.”
In December 2011, a provision in the NDAA suspended the Army’s enterprise e-mail funding pending reports submitted to Congress that detail how it fits in with broader Defense Department enterprise e-mail plans, the use of fair and open competition in upgrading DOD enterprise e-mail architecture and how the DOD CIO is handling the e-mail capabilities of the other military services.
According to Krieger, during the suspension the Army assigned enterprise e-mail program management to the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems and designated a new program director, whom he didn’t name.
He said his office also revisited and is updating the service-level agreement for enterprise e-mail between the Army and the Defense Information Systems Agency, which is hosting the service.
“The teams are discussing several revisions based on lessons-learned from the past 12 months of operational experience. Concurrently, the Army is updating the concept-of-operations document, making drastic improvements to change IT management processes for existing and emerging [enterprise e-mail]-related tactics, techniques and procedures,” Krieger wrote. “These improvements will help with the success of enterprise services beyond e-mail as well.”
At the Belvoir Industry Days conference on March 19, Army CIO Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence stressed that the enterprise e-mail program is about more than just e-mail messaging.
“We’re finding more and more ways to use this,” she said. “Enterprise e-mail is not about e-mail. It is about having a single identity, a single IP address that we can connect [a soldier] anywhere in the world – whether at home, working at the Pentagon or forward-deployed…you are connected.”
Krieger and Lawrence both commented on the network clean-up being driven by enterprise e-mail migration, which Lawrence called “a forcing function.”
According to Krieger, roughly 310,000 accounts have been migrated to enterprise e-mail, with the Secret IP Router Network migrations to begin in third quarter fiscal 2012. He said all accounts are expected to be migrated by the second quarter of fiscal 2013.
Posted on Mar 23, 2012 at 9:03 AM1 comments
Growth in defense spending during the past decade of war spurred the expansion of industry to support wartime requirements, but as the Defense Department faces a drop in spending commensurate with the drawdown of military operations, the private sector must also expect to shrink.
According to Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the average ratio of troops to contractors is now less than 1:1 – as opposed to during the Revolutionary War, when it was 6:1, a DOD release stated.
“It can’t keep going that way,” Dempsey said March 6 at Joint Operational Contract Support Leaders Conference in Washington.
According to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) released last May, spending on contract goods and services spiked during the past decade.
“Between 2001 and 2010, dollars obligated by the DOD to contract awards more than doubled, and contract spending far outpaced growth in other DOD outlays,” the report noted.
So what happens in the future?
Dempsey stressed the importance of making sure the institutional knowledge gained from 10 years at war isn’t lost for future conflicts, and the defense industry will have a role to play there.
Also, it will be key that DOD and its defense industrial base partners find the right balance in the public and private sectors. That’s an idea that was stressed in February by David Berteau, senior vice president and director of national security program at CSIS.
“It’s widely recognized by those of us in the national security community that we have a dependence on contractors unlike anything we’ve had in our lifetimes,” he said.
If there’s been overspending on contracted services and weapons systems over the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both the blame and the solutions lie in both sides of the community.
“We don’t fix the problem by firing contractors; we fix the problem by better defining government requirements,” Berteau said, although he remained optimistic. “The reduction in the government will give us an optimistic reason to be sure that we’re going to do better because we’re going to have so much less.”
Posted on Mar 07, 2012 at 9:03 AM3 comments
The U.S. may have pulled out of Iraq and be drawing down in Afghanistan, but deployed troops continue to face a mounting threat posed by improvised explosive devices.
An abundance of money, research, development and brain power have gone into finding ways to protect service members from IEDs, including in ways you might not immediately consider.
According to Navy Cmdr. Jack Downes, integration branch chief of the Joint IED Defeat Organization, the military is making strides in developing special underwear to “protect pelvic-region function.”
Last year, the Army started experimenting with heavy silk protective undergarments, and in January the Marine Corps released a request for information for the development of ballistic material-strength underwear.
“The protection provided will help lower the probability of infection to the pelvic region by limiting the amount of debridement experienced in an explosive event,” the RFI states.
Downes, who compared some versions as being diaper-like but effective, underscored the gravity of the issue when he spoke at the Soldier Technology conference in Arlington, Va., Jan. 26.
“They’re still getting after us – there’s been an increase in attacks on dismounted troops from last year total to this year total, and a significant increase from 2009 as well,” he said.
Downes described the anti-IED underwear as being made of Kevlar, the material famously used in bullet-proof vests. But troops report the Kevlar isn’t very comfortable, so the Marines are looking for something with a better fit, according to an MSNBC report.
As a solution the military is looking toward the aforementioned heavy silk, but there, too, lies a snag in the form of a World War II-era rule requiring the Defense Department to buy domestic products for food and uniforms, BusinessWeek reported. The Pentagon hasn’t found an acceptable U.S. seller of the most effective types of silk.
While the Marines and Army were given a one-time waiver to test out some British undergarments last year, American companies will need to be found to supply the shorts. Kevlar is made by Delaware-based DuPont, so that’s been given a green light; the Marines have said they’ve identified some U.S. companies to provide suitable materials as well.
That’s good news for troops facing the IED threat on a daily basis.
“A modest amount of protection can make a big difference in men being able to depart the battlefield intact,” Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute, told USAToday last year.
Posted on Feb 02, 2012 at 12:54 PM2 comments
After migration issues, Microsoft patching, adjustments to tactics, techniques and procedures and some serious hurdles in funding – all of which the Army says have been or will soon be fixed – will 2012 be the year Defense Department enterprise e-mail transcends the rhetoric and speaks for itself?
Maybe not. If DOD enterprise e-mail’s had a murky existence so far, its future is practically opaque. In fact, there are more questions than ever, including three big ones.
Some background: A little less than a year ago, the focus was mostly on Army enterprise e-mail, since it was – and still is – the only service implementing the program. There were questions as to if and when the other services would join, but most concern centered on the technical difficulties the Defense Information Systems Agency and Army CIO were having in migrating e-mail accounts.
Those difficulties were fixed and the Army resumed the migration process, with more than 300,000 accounts migrated to the cloud-based e-mail system being hosted by DISA.
But now it’s on hold yet again, after provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act suspended all of the Army program’s funding pending reports submitted to Congress that detail how it fits in with broader DOD enterprise e-mail plans, the use of fair and open competition in upgrading DOD enterprise e-mail architecture and how the DOD CIO is handling the e-mail capabilities of the other military services.
Question 1: So where does enterprise e-mail stand?
For the Army, it’s at a standstill…for now. But to hear the Army tell it, it’s just another brief pause while the mandates from Congress get squared away.
“Migration stopped upon enactment of the NDAA – pending Army’s compliance with the Act’s requirements,” Margaret McBride, Army CIO spokeswoman, said via e-mail. “The Army must first submit a report to Congress and wait 30 days before spending [fiscal 2012] funds to begin migrating new organizations or installations to enterprise e-mail. The most likely effect is a 45 to 60 day delay in migrations – depending on when the Army submits the required report.”
Question 2: About that report...how does enterprise e-mail fit with broader DOD plans, and how much fair and open competition was used?
While technically that’s two questions, they’re wrapped in one big one: What will this report say? There’s no telling until it comes out, and even then details may be scarce if it’s like the last Army enterprise e-mail report Congress asked for. In May 2011, a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee proposed stripping 98 percent of the initiative’s funding and asked the secretary of the Army to furnish business-case and cost/benefit analyses for moving the service’s e-mail to the DISA cloud. In that case, Army CIO/G-6 did not respond to FCW’s requests to see the report, but the program did move forward.
In terms of how enterprise e-mail fits in with broader DOD, neither the Air Force, Marine Corps nor Navy have said they would join enterprise e-mail. Rather, officials hinted it wasn’t likely, and in August 2011, DOD CIO Teri Takai backed off the idea that all services would be part of the same enterprise e-mail program as the Army.
“Enterprise e-mail doesn’t mean everybody goes to DISA,” Takai said at the time. “What it does mean is we have to get to a common identity management structure, and we have to get to a common directory structure. We have to be able to collaborate. That’s really the infrastructure that is critical here. That’s the architecture we’re looking at now.”
And as for fair and open competition? The devil will be in the details of the congressional report, but back in May, Army Deputy CIO Mike Krieger did say this: “We considered doing an RFP, but DISA gave us a really good deal.”
To answer a question with another question – what happens if Congress doesn’t like what the Army’s and Takai’s reports say?
Question 3: What does this mean for the other services and offices outside the Army?
As previously stated, the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy don’t appear to be on board with DISA-led enterprise e-mail, although inside sources suggest there may be some conversations going on behind the scenes that could involve a change of heart. Given that there was, at some point, an on-the-record stance that the other services would wait and see how the Army’s program shook out, there’s certainly some wiggle room if it is decided that going through DISA may in fact be the most economical option for upgrading aging e-mail systems.
Meanwhile, according to DISA officials, non-Army entities are moving forward with their own plans to implement enterprise e-mail. Tony Montemarano, DISA director of strategic planning and information, said Jan. 17 that the Defense Logistics Agency and Joint Chiefs of Staff are planning migrations; they will join those 300,000+ that have already made the transition.
To be sure, there are a lot of moving parts here, and that doesn’t even include issues like the Army being ordered to designate enterprise e-mail as a formal acquisition program with accompanying oversight and to use commercial technologies whenever possible; or what it will mean for DOD’s new “DISA first” data center consolidation strategy, or what will happen when budget cuts hit.
For now, there are more questions than answers. Some transparency once the reports are filed might help fill in the blanks.
Posted on Jan 19, 2012 at 9:03 AM2 comments