Information sharing is lifeblood of military ops: Pollett

'Power to connect' becomes top priority

The future of military operations hinge on several critical areas that are undergoing transition, including increased focus on the cyber domain, better collaboration, enterprise services, mobile operations and a necessary cultural shift to facilitate it all, according to a senior Defense Department official.

Those aspects all are part of one broad, crucial requirement of modern national defense: information sharing across the armed services and supporting organizations, the official said.

“We need to think enterprise, not talk enterprise, if we’re going to truly change the way we deliver enterprise services and provide capabilities to the warfighter,” said Army Lt. Gen. Carroll Pollett, Defense Information Systems Agency director, who spoke Aug. 16 at the DISA Customer and Industry Forum in Baltimore. “It’s tough work, but we can’t put black boxes between our capabilities. It’s not about us – it’s about partnership, it’s about teaming and it’s about coming together at [all the different] levels.”

Pollett said lessons in communication have been culminating over the past 10 years, during which time DISA and the military services have learned that capacity is not enough and that requirements for information sharing are vital to operations. He said that DISA’s top priority is the idea of the “power to connect” – also the theme of the agency’s annual conference.

“The power to connect expresses the operational objective to achieve and provide users with global access to protected infrastructure and enterprise services anywhere, anytime, on any device…to make decisive decisions,” Pollett said.

One of DISA’s most visible – and controversial – enterprise efforts designed to connect the military is enterprise e-mail, which Pollett acknowledged as among the agency’s most critical endeavors.

With more than 89,000 Army accounts migrated so far, he said DISA is set next week to begin migrating 10,000 accounts per week after the project resumes from an operational pause to fix some network problems.

“You would not believe the pressure we’re feeling on enterprise e-mail; it’s absolutely a game-changer. Everyone is watching,” Pollett said. “We’re working on it very aggressively, and we will move 1.4 million users by sometime in the second quarter of 2012.”

He also discussed some other key aspects of modern warfare the agency is focusing on, including a cyber domain that is requiring quick action and change to its traditional model, he said.

“The cyber domain is persistent, it’s global and it’s hostile,” Pollett said. “We can’t operate vertically in the cyber domain,” as the military traditionally may have in air, land, sea and space in the past.

To help the military prepare for cyber operations, DISA is establishing cyber readiness inspections and will work the services to help them self-inspect to fortify against and improve visibility of the threat, Pollett noted.

The director also highlighted other cornerstone initiatives DISA is tackling. 

Communication and collaboration have always been core mission areas for the agency, and it’s an area that is only growing in importance, Pollett said. He touched on DISA’s work on the Joint Integration Environment and Joint Enterprise Network, the first phase of which is geared for use by U.S. European and Africa commands and the Army. He also said DISA is working with the Army on a data architecture effort to integrate and synchronize communications – but he admitted to struggles along the way.

“This is hard. Our resource model doesn’t support this construct, and our cultural model doesn’t support this construct,” he said. “Our ability to integrate and mesh satellite communications is crucial if we’re going to diversify and build an agile environment.”

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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