The creation of the Joint Information Environment (JIE) is not simply an expansion of IT practices in the warfighting arena, but a necessary prerequisite for success.
That’s the underlying message delivered by Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins, Jr., the director of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) in his keynote address at the AFCEA JIE Symposium for Mission Partners, held at the Baltimore Convention Center in May.
“We cannot fight the next fight in stovepipe fashion,” he told the standing-room-only audience. “We do not want to build out an environment based on the last war, or on what any one service or agency wants to do.”
Hawkins said implementing JIE helps in several dimensions. For instance, it is intended to provide a common operational picture to those in combat, from the private on the battlefield to the general directing all the troops to the pilots providing air support.
Even in the heat of combat, “We’re still expected to be able to move data, [and] secure data at rest and in transit,” he said, so “we’re looking at securing the data [rather than] the appliance.”
Creating the JIE helps with budget pressures, a crucial consideration in a time of tight resources. “I believe we can help the services … free up their workforces,” he said, citing the implementation of the Defense Enterprise Email system as an example.
For the Defense Department (DoD) to be able to capitalize on these savings, however, Hawkins said the budgeting and acquisitions processes currently in place need to be retooled. “Our policies [are geared] to the acquisition process for major weapons systems, not IT,” he said.
The JIE will likely change the responsibilities of all the individuals serving, he said. The Defense Department has to work on building a premier, modern cyber force. “It can’t be about cyber protection teams,” Hawkins said.
These kinds of changes also will have to ripple through the defense contracting industry, since so much data rests in private-sector systems, and key capabilities are provided through service contracts. “Sixty percent of the DISA cloud is run by our industry partners,” he said.
The JIE also is intended to make it much easier to both accommodate new technologies that deliver new capabilities, and ensure that those technologies are used across all the military services.
This particularly applies to mobile capabilities.
DISA wants to establish “a perpetual secure mobile environment [that extends] all the way to top secret” networks and data, Hawkins said.
In a press briefing after Hawkins’ speech, David Bennett, DISA’s CIO and principal director for enterprise services, said that addressing mobility would also address the question of BYOD – bring your own devices.
“From a security standpoint, I think we’re probably going to be the ones … pacing BYOD in the Defense Department,” Bennett said. “We’re now to the point that we’re improving recreational use apps, the non-official-use apps … I think that’s step one in BYOD.”
There are other steps that must be taken, such as how to contain DoD information securely on a personal device, or how to purge data and government portals on devices being turned in for upgrades. But “this first phase, where we have government-provisioned devices with liberal recreational use allow us to work through those issues,” he said.