Aug 25 2011

Eliminating the Technology Gap

Despite smaller budgets, the Army seeks to catch up with industry in its use of IT.

As the military prepares to deal with significant cuts to its IT budget, the Army’s top IT official says it must change the way it purchases IT.

“We can’t just close the technology gap” between the Army and industry, Army CIO Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence told the audience at the LandWarNet conference in Tampa, Fla. “We must eliminate it.”

Eliminating the gap won’t be easy, considering how wide it is, she added, noting that the Army is only now exploring some technologies that industry has used for years.

The Army will publish documents every six months that identify where gaps exist between its IT and that used by industry. The service will solicit suggestions from service providers on how to eliminate the gaps.

The budget cuts also will include reductions in the number of soldiers as well as civilian employees and contractors, but the changes will yield an Army that, although smaller, is also more effective thanks to IT, Lawrence said. The Army will likely make extensive use of thin clients and will emphasize “everything over IP,” she added.

As its forces get smaller, the Army also wants to reduce the number of networks it runs. The service operates dozens today and wants to reduce that number to one, Lawrence said. To achieve this goal, the service must establish strict rules for IT operations, she said, adding that enforcement of these rules will be “draconian, if necessary.”

The Army also wants to take a more forceful approach to secure its systems, with help from industry. “We have to include security in our thought processes from the very beginning of development of any new technology,” Lawrence said.