DoD Digital Strategy Focuses on Well-Discussed Themes

Pentagon Military Defense DoD

The Defense Department on July 12 released its Digital Modernization Strategy, but for followers of DoD IT policy developments, the high points of the strategy cover already-familiar territory including cloud, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and workforce development.

The Top Line

In its most concise summary, the strategy document identifies the DoD CIO’s major priorities as:

  • Cybersecurity;
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI);
  • Cloud; and
  • Command, Control, and Communications.

The strategy document also states four major digital modernization goals:

  • Innovate for competitive advantage;
  • Optimize for efficiencies and improved capability;
  • Evolve cybersecurity for an agile and resilient defense posture; and
  • Cultivate talent for a ready digital workforce.

The strategy document reflects CIO Dana Deasy’s vision for achieving DoD’s goals and creating “a more secure, coordinated, seamless, transparent, and cost-effective IT architecture that transforms data into actionable information and ensures dependable mission execution in the face of a persistent cyber threat.”

Familiar Policy Themes

In numerous public appearances in recent months, Deasy has discussed the key roles that cloud, cyber, and AI are playing at DoD already, and the expanded roles they will continue to play down the road.

The CIO and other DoD officials have been outspoken about the role of AI and the agency’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), and on findings ways to grow the cybersecurity workforce.

Those tech priorities will play out against an IT landscape that is truly vast. The strategy document notes that the agency has a $46 billion annual IT budget, an “roughly ten thousand operational systems, thousands of data centers, tens of thousands of servers, millions of computers and IT devices, and hundreds of thousands of commercial mobile devices”

CIO Office Management Goals

Since getting congressional authorization in January 2019 to oversee DoD budget requests and modernization efforts, the DoD CIO will oversee IT budget requests and modernization efforts “with a comprehensive management system,” which the strategy states will yield annual capability planning guidance and CIO budget certifications.

“This management system will enable continual, comprehensive Department-wide IT modernization in a common, coordinated way,” the strategy states.

“Furthermore, it will accelerate transition to foundational enterprise capabilities and services, freeing DoD Components to focus on their mission-unique capabilities and services … Combined with policy and governance changes, it will shift the Department from an ‘opt-in’ approach to enterprise services. Leveraging commonalities among DoD Component, the many overlapping and duplicative IT systems, programs, projects, services, capabilities, operations, and governance constructs in the Department will be more effectively synchronized, consolidated, and integrated,” it says.

The strategy document says benefits of the shift will include:

  • Increased speed and reduced duplication of effort – increasing IT return on investment (ROI);
  • Consistent, standardized enterprise IT architectures – supporting faster fielding of new capabilities, interoperability, usability, and improved cybersecurity risk exposure;
  • Increased budget transparency for DoD IT expenditures;
  • Convergence of Component network infrastructure – reducing complexity and cost;
  • Eliminates fielding of unnecessary capabilities and services – reducing program overhead; and
  • Enterprise acquisition/licensing discounts – reducing infrastructure and application licenses.

“The future DoD digital environment will provide seamless, agile, resilient, transparent and secure infrastructure and services that advance DoD information superiority and simplify information sharing with mission partners,” the strategy states.

Tech Favorites

The strategy document ticks off a lengthy list of “innovative technologies” that DoD will leverage in “the future environment.” Listed under technologies that DoD is “exploring” are:

  • AI;
  • Big Data Analytics;
  • Evergreen IT approaches;
  • DevSecOps;
  • Hyper-Converged Infrastructure;
  • Serverless or Event-Driven Computing;
  • Software Defined Networking;
  • Blockchain;
  • Cryptographic Modernization;
  • Quantum Computing;
  • Internet of Things;
  • 5G wireless;
  • Internet Protocol version 6;
  • Passive Optical Network (PON); and
  • Zero Trust Security.

“A number of these technologies can work together to provide the Department with the potential for quantum leaps in capability,” the strategy states.

And to give a broad idea of the scope of DoD’s IT, the strategy document notes that the agency has a $46 billion annual IT budget, an “roughly ten thousand operational systems, thousands of data centers, tens of thousands of servers, millions of computers and IT devices, and hundreds of thousands of commercial mobile devices”

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