Coast Guard center helps steer network initiatives amid tight budgets
- By Henry Kenyon
- Aug 09, 2011
The Coast Guard is taking a transparent approach to IT funding in tight budget times, while also doing the heavy lifting involved in network and data center consolidation, said a top official of the service on Aug. 9.
Because the Coast Guard is part of the Homeland Security Department and not the Defense Department, its networks operate in the .gov Internet domain instead of the .mil environment, Mark Powell, director of the Coast Guard's Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Information Technology (C4IT) service center, said at the AFCEA Warfighter Support IT Day in Vienna, Va.
The difference introduces a variety of security and operational challenges for network management, but it also helps the service because it provides a different perspective from the military, he said.
The C4IT service center serves as a one-stop shop for all of the Coast Guard’s command and control and IT needs, Powell said. The Coast Guard also is supported by three centers of excellence located around the United States, he said.
The service conducted its most recent budget process in a transparent fashion that marked a radical change from the traditional way of doing business, Powell said. Where managers previously had a great deal of leeway in defending their budgets, they now must demonstrate why their systems require funding. Determining return on investment also is an important part of the new budgeting process and the Coast Guard is looking at "charge-back" models for new services, he said.
The Coast Guard also is working out IT governance issues, Powell said. An important part of implementing new systems is to emphasize cultural and organizational change. To introduce new systems and new technologies, there there must be cultural acceptance of it, he said.
IT consolidation falls under the Coast Guard CIO, Powell said. The Coast Guard is determining where its IT funds are invested and is moving this responsibility to the CIO to provide the best value, Powell said. This is a major effort and it will take time, but it's getting there, he said, adding that the C4IT center is now responsible for managing the costs and acquisition of new equipment.
The Coast Guard is working with DHS on data center consolidation. While the service is consolidating its centers, it is keeping some areas separate from DHS consolidation plans to meet its business case, Powell said.
The Coast Guard also is looking to improve its network security processes. “We have to make certain that we take all the reasonable requirements for the safety of our networks,” Powell said. But because there is no such thing as a totally secure computer, there must be a tradeoff between security and enabling operators, he said.
Following the lead of the other uniformed services, the Coast Guard is considering uses for smart phones. The service is examining steps to develop applications and crafting an infrastructure. The service also is concerned about security for wireless devices and is looking for industry assistance in that area, Powell said.
Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.