TRANSCOM begins transition to SOA

The U.S. Transportation Command has begun the rollout of a five-year program that will transform it from an organization dependent on old and slow stovepiped systems and applications to one that uses single-click, Web-based enterprise services to get things done.

At the end of last year Asynchrony Solutions Inc., which won a $14 million support services contract in July 2008, delivered the first element in a three-phase effort to build a services oriented architecture (SOA) that will form the backbone for USTRANSCOM’s Corporate Services Vision (CSV).

The ultimate goal is nothing less than a net-centric driven revolution in the way the military provides resources to its warfighters around the globe.

Net-centricity has been a goal for the past eight years, said Robert Osborne, USTRANSCOM’s deputy director for portfolio management, command, control, communications and computer systems. But up to now that’s meant different things to different people, and each program manager has had to work out for themselves what that meant for how they do business.

“In the past we’ve been a systems centric organization, and any two program managers would produce different ideas on what was needed,” Osborne said. “With the CSV, we’ll have one system that delivers the same thing to everyone through a SOA.”

There are multiple systems that users now need to get data into and out of to order equipment or parts or to schedule troop transportation, and to track the progress of all of that. Many of the systems and applications are incompatible with each other.

That complicated IT infrastructure will go away once the CSV is realized. Users will log in to one Web site, type in their requirements, and then click to send that request out. All of the to-and-fro between different systems disappears because of the SOA, which integrates all of those legacy systems and applications along with new capabilities into an enterprise architecture that is transparent to the user.

The first phase of the enterprise SOA process is the conceptual architecture, which Asynchrony delivered to USTRANSCOM in December. That takes the “as-is”, stovepiped version called the Joint Deployment and Distribution Architecture (JDDA), and defines the various components of that architecture and how they relate to each other.

Two future phases will be the prescriptive architecture – which defines the IT, business processes, applications and so on that will be needed to get to the “to-be” target state – and the transition architecture, which details the costs and timelines for getting to the final goal, the Enhanced JDDA (JDDA-E).

The prescriptive architecture is due for delivery in the fall of 2009, said Steve Elfanbaum, Asynchrony’s president. But it won’t take the full length of the contract for new Web-based capabilities to come out, or for the transition architecture to be fully defined.

“People (in USTRANSCOM) are already clamoring for new services and want to use what we have now,” he said. “So as things come out of this process, as the various templates and standards fall out, we’ll start to use those as soon as we can.”

There are potential barriers to the success of the program, Osborne said. The acquisition rules may have to be looked at anew to see how they fit with the new environment. Change management also figures to be a challenge, along with user education, something Osborne said he has spent most of his time on over the past year.

In the end, however, Osborne expects the JDDA-E to produce a transformation not just in the way users do business, but also in how USTRANSCOM uses technology in the future. Since the goal of the CSV is to deliver services for everyone in the organization through the SOA, it also makes technology insertion that much simpler, he said.

Other military agencies will also be affected by the development of the JDDA-E. USTRANSCOM was named the Distribution Portfolio Manager for the entire DID in 2004, with the responsibility for making sure it had all of the IT capabilities it needed to perform its mission.

USTRANSCOM doesn’t own all of the systems needed for that, so those other organizations will have to design at least some of their IT investments to meet the needs of the JDDA-E, Osborne said.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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