Budget struggles, cyber policies shape DOD approach to cloud

Cloud strategies taking on growing importance for an increasingly cyber-focused military

Cloud computing isn’t new to the Defense Department, but its use and governance is undergoing an evolution as the military determines how to best implement and secure cloud-based strategies, according to a top official.

“It’s really important for us to address this issue," said Rob Carey, deputy DOD CIO.  "We are currently hacking through some of the challenges that exist going into this technology. It’s important to recognize the difficulty of providing information technology for these guys in the field."

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Carey noted that the federal government’s financial struggles are having a profound impact across defense IT. “The budget crunches of today are forcing us to re-examine what enterprise means,” Carey said. “The single, stove-piped solutions that exist on a base cannot be afforded anymore. That’s not going to happen.”

He described the military’s moves toward the cloud as a journey that must take into account figures such as DOD’s 1.4 million active-duty users, 750,000 civilian users, 10,000 operational systems and $38 billion in IT spending for fiscal 2012.

“This makes our world complex and makes our entry into anything deliberate, and it has to be really thought through quite well,” Carey said.

Despite the slow deliberations behind defense IT decision-making, Carey pointed to some examples of progress that are already beginning to shape the future of military technology.

He said the Defense Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace, released in July, is helping define network defense as well as goals in effectiveness, efficiency and cybersecurity. Increasing focus is also being turned toward data center and server consolidation, modernization of security architecture and the implementation of cross-domain solutions, he said.

Still, he admitted to challenges, particularly with cloud, related to security, cyber command and control, identity management, multi-tenancy in commercial cloud solutions and data visibility.

For the near-term, strides in cloud computing remain funded as part of service models covering the next few years – a factor that is boosted by cloud’s increasing importance as both a weapons system of sorts and an enterprise resource planning tool, Carey said. Still, it’s a work in progress.

“Cloud is part of the defense matrix,” he said. “I think we’re on the right path. It’s not a [given] – today, going into the budget office and asking for a couple hundred million dollars isn’t going play out very well. This is where information technology needs to pay for itself. We need to consolidate and keep the engine turning. While you drive this Hummer, you’ve got to keep working on it along the way.”

About the Author

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

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