Jul 31 2008

Are You Ready for This?

Three feds in the vanguard of IT transformation identify tools on the cusp of dramatically altering the face of government.

Marching Forward With EoIP

Brig. Gen. Susan S. Lawrence • Army

The convergence of digital information — voice, video and data — is changing the way the world does business, and nowhere is this more true than in the military.

Commonly referred to across the Defense Department as Everything over Internet Protocol, or EoIP, this convergence is empowering commanders today with the ability to simultaneously monitor live video feeds from unmanned aerial systems, Internet-relay chat messages from checkpoints and observation posts, single-channel radio nets from units in contact, and real-time collaboration sessions with widely distributed warfighting headquarters — all on a single audio/video command and control display.

Although this convergence of digital information is powerful, it is not sufficient in and of itself to bring about the full scope of change envisioned for the Army’s network enterprise. It’s how we leverage the power of EoIP that will revolutionize business and warfighting functions throughout the service. Toward that end, the Army is in the midst of implementing a globally based Network Service Center (NSC) construct that will bring about a true joint, interagency and multinational network enterprise — what I call the “Big E.”

The NSC is an overarching operational and organizational construct that ties together global network connectivity (satellite, fiber, copper and microwave), applications, services and network operations in a more cohesive manner than ever before.

To realize this goal, we must enhance our network defenses against an ever-evolving and determined enemy. This requires that every computer be on a common, Army Gold Master baseline on each of our classified and unclassified networks, along with the implementation of host-based security systems.

By leveraging EoIP and other emerging technologies with a “Big E” enterprise approach, we are creating a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts for the Army and DOD and even our partners in civilian agencies. Implementing these capabilities with the proper network governance, common (yet flexible) standards and strengthened network defenses will truly revolutionize the way the Army does business.

Brig. Gen. Susan S. Lawrence is commanding general of the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command and 9th Signal Command, a globally based command of 17,000 personnel headquartered at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Speeding Innovation across Defence

Ray G. Boyd • DOD

The Defense Department CIO is fully taking on the challenge of bringing non-traditional defense companies and their emerging IT capabilities into DOD.

It is essential that program offices, requirements personnel and the department’s technologists have an awareness of the latest emerging technologies when conducting their up-front needs-analysis and requirements-development tasks.

Currently, there are many barriers that keep nontraditional defense companies and their technologies from getting into DOD.

To meet this challenge, Tamie Lyles-Santiago, a program manager in the Office of the CIO, developed the concept of a Defense-wide Emerging Technology Registry to give DOD users access to information about technologies and vendors. To determine the broad requirements for an operational system and in partnership with the House Armed Services Committee, Noel Dickover from Communibuild Technologies was commissioned to develop what would eventually become the Emerging Technology Web 2.0 Clearinghouse. The Emerging Technology Clearinghouse has successfully gotten the attention of senior leaders across the department.

As such, by combining efforts with the Office of Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, the Defense Technical Information Center and the Office of the Director for Defense Research and Engineering, the Office of the CIO has begun creating a single, enterprisewide collaboration portal. Tentatively dubbed “DOD Techipedia,” this portal will span all technology areas, including IT.

The department needs to get a much better handle on innovations in industry that can address real-world capability problems within its organizations. Many nontraditional Defense suppliers might not necessarily understand the department’s business, but they do understand technology.

Ray G. Boyd is director of IT investments and commercial policy in the Office of the Defense CIO.

Using Technology to Unite Roving Workers

Teresa Sorrenti • GSA

There are obvious benefits from the General Services Administration’s initiative to expand telework participation at the agency to 50 percent by 2010: reduced pollution, increased employee satisfaction and potential space savings. Not as obvious nor as often addressed is the effect this shift in working environment has on the user experience and how technology assists employees in the transition to productive telework.

The Office of the CIO provides the required technology to GSA employees. As a result of recent consolidations and reorganizations, we are a truly virtual workforce. Increasing numbers of staff in regional locations are now part of what we call our “Central Office” and have nationwide responsibilities. Furthermore, within regional offices in the Federal Acquisition Service and Public Buildings Service, there are employees in small field offices, customer service representatives located at other agency locations and industry liaisons who only have mobile offices. All of these employees need to be team members as much as the person who works at an office at GSA headquarters in Washington or who teleworks from home.

Providing dial-in numbers for meetings is now as commonplace as providing room numbers. When audio communication is insufficient, an enterprise unified-communications web-conferencing application provides an easy way to share presentations and documents. There are occasions, however, when seeing your colleagues provides true connectivity. GSA is using videoconferencing more frequently with good results.

I recently participated in a videoconference where someone was teased about his necktie; this kind of communication can be the glue that maintains a group identity for remote participants. GSA is also exploring new telepresence technology that dramatically enhances virtual meetings. This capability provides amazing video and audio quality but may require additional physical and IT infrastructure, as well as future planning and investments.

There are also policy initiatives supporting the telework program. All employees are now limited to a single device, so those interested in telework are moving to notebooks. Employees can connect to the GSA network using virtual private network connections and their own Internet provider. Complementary initiatives from the Office of Management and Budget, such as the Federal Desktop Core Configuration, facilitate standardization and interoperability of user interfaces. Security efforts under the two-factor authentication mandate (OMB Directive M-06-16) will alleviate many concerns about remote access to agency networks. As the issuance of HSPD-12 ID cards expands (more than 30 percent of GSA employees now have the cards), the logical access provisions for GSA networks and applications will incorporate the cards.

Technology allows and encourages an interconnected workforce. The agency’s new centralized IT service desk is available anytime, from anywhere and can access computers remotely to fix problems. A new automated notification system piloted during a recent continuity of operations planning exercise lets us contact staff automatically — by office, cell and home phones, e-mail and BlackBerry — and receive confirmation that information was received, regardless of their location at that point in time.

Web 2.0 technologies, such as blogs, wikis and Facebook-type tools that are commonplace to younger workers, combine with existing technology to enable an environment of idea exchange never achieved in our 20th-century stovepiped organizations. The result? When GSA achieves the 50 percent telework goal, it will have a workforce that’s more connected than the traditional office.

Teresa Sorrenti is the chief technology officer and director of GSA’s Office of Enterprise Solutions.