Interview with Gary Winkler
Gary Winkler, the program executive officer for enterprise information systems, offers his insight on Army initiatives that seek to improve support functions, global communications and online learning.
Gary Winkler, a member of the Senior Executive Service since 2003, has led the Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO-EIS) at Fort Belvoir, Va., since October 2007.
He is responsible for program management of Defense Department and Army business and combat service support systems in addition to related Army communications and computer infrastructure.
He spoke with Defense Systems contributing editor Barry Rosenberg about network service centers (NSCs), enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementations, biometrics, Army Knowledge Online (AKO) and Defense Knowledge Online (DKO), and Computer Hardware Enterprise Software and Solutions (CHESS) initiatives.
DS: As program executive officer for enterprise information systems, you oversee a vast number oGaryf programs for the Army. In your opinion, what are the programs to watch in the coming year?
Winkler: Probably the program with the highest visibility is the NSC global construct initiative. NSCs are the next-generation LandWarNet, as they will provide connectivity for the entire Army. Although they are still in the planning stage and will not be fielded for a couple of years, it is an exciting concept worth following.
We have two ERP systems starting deployment in fiscal 2009: the General Fund Enterprise Business System and the Defense Integrated Military Human Resource System (DIMHRS). Global Combat Support System-Army (GCSS-A) will be right on their heels to support our tactical logistics users.
The Logistics Modernization Program (LMP) ERP will continue its fielding activities by going live this year at Aviation and Missile Command. Although LMP has been in use at Tobyhanna Army Depot for several years, it will now also provide real-time total asset visibility, collaborative planning and forecasting, and future-use projections for a different commodity.
We will be fielding new capabilities for biometrics, including an upgraded repository for biometric data. AKO/DKO is continuing to expand, not only with upgrades and enhancements but also with increased DKO support and participation.
DS: Can you briefly explain the concept behind NSCs?
Winkler: NSCs are one of our biggest enterprise challenges with the most benefit to the Army. The NSC global construct is fairly simple: We want to provide a seamless worldwide communications structure that extends down from the global backbone to regional networks to posts, camps and stations, and last, to the tactical users in the battlefield. The idea is that any user, anywhere in the world, will have access to enterprise network services, their mission applications and their data. This will provide global plug and play on demand.
NSCs will consist of a fixed regional hub, an area processing center (APC) and a theater network operations and security center. We are looking at between five and 10 NSCs, with the number and locations based on user populations and operational requirements.
NSCs will provide several benefits. The most apparent to users will be improved network performance and the ability to access their services, systems and data anywhere, at any time. The plug-and-play environment will allow the user to maintain the same look and feel from post to post, in the continental United States or globally. NSCs will also provide enhanced security and cost savings, although these will be transparent to the users.
At this point, we are in the process of developing requirements and an acquisition strategy. Initial NSC implementations have already occurred with the stand up of two APCs at the Defense Information Systems Agency DECC facilities in Columbus, Ohio, and Oklahoma City. Follow-on implementations this year will be focused at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg and U.S. Army Europe. Initial program planning activities indicate that it will take at least five years to achieve the objective NSC global construct state.
DS: How are ERP systems going to modernize your business systems?
Winkler:We still have hundreds of stovepiped logistics, financial and personnel systems and applications that run on different platforms and cannot easily nor cost-effectively share data — even among systems in the same functional domain.
ERP systems have been leveraged in private industry for years, and given that the Army and DOD need to be efficient and effective enterprises, we must also leverage their power. They will enable the Army to collapse its myriad functional systems, first into a functional enterprise, and then into an overarching business enterprise that spans functional domains.
The General Fund Enterprise Business System will allow the Army to share financial, asset and account data across the service. It will replace 87 overlapping and redundant systems with one system used by more than 79,000 users. It will be one of the world’s largest enterprise financial systems, eventually managing $140 billion in annual spending by the active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserves.
The Global Combat Support Systems-Army will fulfill all tactical Army logistics requirements with a single, Army-logistics-domain wide enterprise solution with a common master logistics database. It will replace 13 Army logistics systems and interface or integrate with command-and-control systems and joint systems. GCSS-A will enable logistics commanders at the tactical level to anticipate, allocate and synchronize the flow of resources across the area of operation.
Not only will these ERP systems replace outdated systems but they will be integrated through our Army Enterprise Systems Integration Program. AESIP will be the single source for enterprise hub services, business intelligence and analytics, and centralized master data management. This integration will allow data to flow seamlessly between the two systems and our legacy systems, ultimately knitting together our business enterprise.
DS: Biometrics has become one of the hottest technology areas, and many DOD organizations seem to be involved in developing biometric capability. What role is PEO-EIS taking in this arena?
Winkler: The Army is the executive agent for DOD biometrics and is the acquisition lead for DOD biometric capabilities. There have been great strides in the use of biometrics in the past several years. DOD employs biometric systems in theater to support activities such as Iraqi security force screening, detainee operations, cache and post-improvised explosive device incident exploitation, intelligence operations, presence operations, local population control, and base access control. These DOD systems were initially developed as prototypes or advanced concept technology demonstrations to meet specific needs, but all were rapidly deployed to provide critical technology to the warfighter.
One of the key elements of the enterprise biometric system is the Next Generation Automated Biometrics Information System (NG-ABIS). The current ABIS was built as a prototype to collect, store and screen fingerprints from detainees. Although it has been very successful, it has limitations. NGABIS, scheduled for fielding in second quarter fiscal 2009, will be the authoritative biometric repository capable of providing positive identification based on fused multimodal biometrics. Whereas the current ABIS only has fingerprint data, NG-ABIS will store, retrieve and screen multiple types of biometric data, such as iris scans collected from persons of national security interest. Information can also be exchanged with the FBI’s Automated Fingerprint Identification System and other government systems.
Another critical component of the biometrics enterprise is the collection devices used to collect, format, match and transmit biometric data. The Biometrics Common Hardware and Software program will provide a software framework to support the development of mission-specific applications for collecting, formatting, matching and transmitting data in support of an enterprisewide biometrics family of systems. The Biometrics Family of Capabilities for Full Spectrum Operations will focus on myriad current and future biometric collection devices, ensuring the systems are interoperable and do not duplicate capabilities.
DS: What is the status of DIMHRS?
Winkler: The Army is planning to deploy the first increment of DIMHRS in March 2009. The Army will be the first to come online with DIMHRS, followed by the Air Force six months later, and then the Navy.
DIMHRS is a Web-based personnel and pay system that will integrate information from active, National Guard and Reserve components into a single, central database. A warfighter will have one record for the lifetime of his or her service. This first increment will focus on personnel and pay and will provide soldiers the ability to manage their pay records and financial data, track personnel actions, and conduct other pay and personnel activities all in one system. DIMHRS also provides combatant commanders at all levels a common operating picture on strength management and accounting by integrating all three components’ information into one database.
DS: AKO has — at least in terms of numbers of users — been a success and has been adopted by DISA for DKO, and the program recently got a new mandate. Can you discuss the goals for AKO now, and what they mean in terms of additional infrastructure and software requirements?
Winkler: AKO/DKO provides enterprise- level services to more than 2 million registered users. These services include universal directory services for user situational awareness, Web mail, Web conferencing and collaboration tools, and instant messaging and chat among Army and joint users. We are preparing to support as many as 2.5 million users by this fall and anticipating 3.5 million by 2010. The ultimate goal will be to support as many as 8 million users.
DKO will leverage the AKO portal and will feature a net-centric, service-oriented architecture that will facilitate the same knowledge management, collaboration and information sharing across the entire DOD and other government agencies. DKO will serve as the primary single entry point for all DOD components. The services will share the same infrastructure, security mechanisms, presentation layer and access to data.
We are looking at several enhancements for our tactical, deployed users, including wiki, mobile messaging, new IM chat, new Web mail with drag-and-drop and security enhancements.
For wiki, AKO is undergoing a limited user test restricted to Department of the Army core personnel with Common Access Cards (CAC). The intended outcome is a recommendation for an enterprise implementation of wiki for Army users. In the area of mobile messaging, AKO Web mail can currently be accessed through client applications on an iPod and other Missile Defense Agency devices. AKO is looking toward a mobile messaging solution, with encryption and digital signing capability that will push data to most MDA devices.
For IM chat, AKO IM chat is being upgraded to provide better presence awareness, persistent IMs and a smaller Flash-based download. In looking at Web mail, AKO users currently access e-mail using Web mail, POP-S or IMAP-S. Users can also download a desktop application called [Microsoft Office] Outlook Connector that enables the full capabilities of Outlook with AKO e-mail, calendar and address book. AKO’s next release of the Web mail will have these Outlook features like drag and drop and viewing multiple calendars in the Web browser and not require a client.
In the area of security enhancements, content security will soon provide an additional layer of security to portal data. As part of this new feature, personal questions will be used to strengthen password authentication for users logging in without a CAC. Users will be asked to select 15 of 20 personnel questions and corresponding answers. Every time a user logs on to AKO with a user name and password, three of the selected 15 questions will be presented to the user to answer.
In April 2008, we upgraded the classified AKO portal, and in June 2008, we upgraded the unclassified AKO portal, making them compliant with SOA standards for DOD. SOA provides a common interface to current and legacy systems. AKO/DKO now supports Java Specification Requests 168 and Web services for remote portals’ portlets. The Defense Travel System is currently working with AKO/DKO to test our first portlet instance.
DS: What’s the rationale for changing the name of the Army Small Computer Program (ASCP) to CHESS?
Winkler: The world has changed since 1990 when the Army’s Small Computer Program Office was created. Since its inception, ASCP became synonymous with small computers — laptops, desktops — and small purchases. ASCP was very successful, but evolution is inevitable.
Just as PEO-EIS evolved from PEO-Standard Army Management Information Systems to developing and deploying enterprise systems, CHESS has expanded to provide enterprise- level products and services.
CHESS is still the primary source for commercial information technology as stated in Army Regulation 25-1, “Army Knowledge Management and Information Technology.” However, their products are not limited to computers. CHESS is also the Army’s Software Product Manager representing all commercial off-the-shelf software license actions as part of the DOD Enterprise Software Initiative. In addition, CHESS offers enterprise solutions through the Information Technology Enterprise Solutions contracts for services and high-end server hardware, including information assurance products. These solutions contracts were not reflected in the ASCP name. CHESS is a full-service enterprise IT provider and the new name accurately reflects it. It’s so simple we should have renamed it sooner.