Army PEO EIS leads data-center drive to common operating environment
Doug Wiltsie assumed command of Army Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS) last October. A member of the Senior Executive Service, he most recently served as deputy program executive officer for the Army’s Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors organization.
He spoke with Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Barry Rosenberg about closer cooperation with the private sector on procurement, as well as cloud computing and biometrics.
DS: Assuming that support of the warfighter is a given, what’s at the top of your to-do list?
Wiltsie: Partnership with DOD and industry is very important to me. The organization has a very good reputation [in that area], and I think that we need to keep doing that. One of the thoughts is to try and implement strategy for contracting where we talk to industry earlier so that they have an idea of what we’re trying to buy and how we’re trying to buy it. It allows them an opportunity to comment before the pressure of schedules starts to weigh on us, and when money arrives we can go very quickly to contract.
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(We also want to be) aligned with [Defense] Secretary Panetta’s idea of enterprise-approach strategies. (Our goal is) systems-of-systems, portfolio-level management wherein decisions on a product may change depending on a focus at the enterprise or at the portfolio level. What I mean by that is that if two systems have the same requirements, we may make a decision that it goes in one system because it’s easier, it’s cheaper, or that program is in the right phase. The other program may still have the requirement, but we would need it a different way. One of the challenges we face is to be proactive rather than reactive in the decisions that we make regarding fielding and deploying of products and services due to rapidly changing requirements.
DS: What is your view of the cloud, what it can do, and security? What is PEO EIS’ specific programmatic role in developing military cloud computing? What of your own applications are you going to put in a cloud?
Wiltsie: The challenge is to move forward smartly and securely while defending a strategy for legacy systems. Toward that end, ASA(ALT) (Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology) has designated PEO EIS as the data center/cloud computing environment lead within the Common Operating Environment (COE) construct. (Ed Note: Within the COE construct, the handheld environment is being led by PEO Soldier, the platform computing environment is led by PEO C3T (PEO for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical), the real-time and critical-computing environment is led by PEO Aviation, and PEO IEW&S (PEO for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors) leads the sensors computing and TOC (Tactical Operations Center) environment.
So the idea is for each one of the leads to define the architectures and standards that will be necessary to be able to implement, in our case cloud computing, across the enterprise. We’re doing that two ways. As the lead we will set the architecture and the standards, [and] also the business concept of how you take legacy systems and move them into the cloud. There are some issues associated with that.
The first is that the systems themselves may be very proprietary, so how you’re able to virtualize those systems and put them in a cloud-computing environment is a big issue. The second issue is the structuring of the data so that everyone has access to the data. (In that case), it needs to be in what’s called an unstructured format, and the issue becomes how we tag the data. Proprietary systems tag data specifically for their own purposes. Whereas in a cloud-computing environment you have a multidimensional tag. And so the program has to change in order to be able to use data that’s tagged differently. And then we also have to be able to virtualize it.
So there is a cost to that. What we need to do is define for Army leadership what the cost is to take legacy programs and put them into the cloud. The way we’re doing that is by building a mini-cloud with ALTESS (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Enterprise Systems and Services) at Radford Arsenal [in Virginia].
The goal is to make this architecture scalable, extensible and standards-based such that it can service the entire acquisition community and be a model for all Army users. [ALTESS will] support an application evaluation process, within PEO EIS as well as the other PEOs, to assess each application’s appropriateness and readiness for cloud-like services. We envision that select Army data centers will eventually become federated with other service data centers and DISA facilities to deliver DOD cloud services. So we’re essentially in the early stages of what could be a Herculean effort for the Army, but the vision is to ultimately be able to deliver services to any Army user, anywhere, regardless of user device type.
DS: What is the latest related to the pause of Army e-mail migration to DISA systems?
Wiltsie: NDAA (the National Defense Authorization Act) of 2012 required the Army to pause the migration of Army units until the Secretary of the Army submitted a report analyzing the requirement, analysis of alternatives, the technical challenges, and costs. The Army is currently finalizing the Secretary of the Army’s report to go back to Congress, and that be there very soon. We will then pause for an additional 30 days in accordance with the NDAA for Congress to review the report. And once we clear those 30 days we will be able to then implement the report.
DS: PEO EIS is the DOD lead for biometrics. Where do you stand in making biometrics a program of record, if that is still a goal?
Wiltsie: A biometrics program of record is still the plan. The Army is currently staffing the requirement for both the next-generation handheld collection device as well as the next-generation database before they are submitted to the Joint Staff for JCIDs (Joint Capabilities Integration Development System) staffing. We are anticipating a milestone decision in fiscal 2013.
This program has been a game changer. In fiscal 2011, the program collected, processed, stored, shared, and matched approximately 1.8 million biometric records supporting military and homeland security missions. Deployed forces used biometrics to distinguish between adversaries and innocents, and were provided the necessary information to decide and act based on scientific processing. These activities positively matched 657,397 identities, including over 6,600 individuals identified on U.S. and coalition partner watch lists, while maintaining operational availability of greater than 98 percent. DOD Biometrics also completed the acquisition of a new handheld device that will be deployed to soldiers and marines in theater that utilizes significantly faster processing capabilities on higher-quality fingerprint data for analysis and matching.
Barry Rosenberg is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryDefense.