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Nov 02 2012

The Need for IT Superiority

Federal users don’t just want an information advantage; they need it.

Robert Carey, the deputy CIO of the Defense Department, recently told a roomful of IT leaders that information superiority isn’t merely something that military users want — it’s something they need.

The need for the military to stay ahead of the information curve — to have more and better information than the nation’s enemies have and to make better use of it — is driving the demand for innovative IT solutions. Every day, the need grows for better information on the battlefield and in support of the troops.

Establishing this superiority relies on two main capabilities. The first is the ability to collect, store and serve the data users need. According to an article earlier this year in the The Wall Street Journal, the world created 5 exabytes (that’s 5 billion gigabytes) of data from the beginning of history through 2003; by next year, we will be generating that much data every five minutes. Wrangling and using all this data is a challenge that cloud computing is helping to address.

For example, the Marine Corps is using cloud computing to make a number of programs and applications available to Marines across the enterprise. And the Defense Information Systems Agency is establishing an enterprise e-mail system for users throughout the Defense Department. No matter where a user goes, his or her e-mail will go along.

Mobile Delivery

The second critical element to maintaining IT superiority is being able to deliver this information where users need it. Mobile computing promises to make this delivery easier and more effective, thereby increasing the advantage. As Carey says, “Mobility is the key to the future of DOD.”

Military agencies are taking advantage of mobile computing in all sorts of innovative ways. For example, Carey cited Marine users who attached mobile devices to their night-vision goggles to record nighttime training sessions for later review.

Military agencies are not the only ones devising novel approaches to providing information superiority. Civilian agencies are also using mobile devices in a variety of clever ways. For example, the Homeland Security Department is using tablets for training, loading textbooks and other educational materials onto the devices, as well as applications that can provide users with more hands-on learning. And the FAA is using tablets to replace the boxes full of paper documents its lawyers have had to lug around.

Using these devices to make information more portable and accessible not only helps agencies accomplish their missions, but it can help save money on expenses such as travel and supplies. And when technology helps improve the bottom line, it makes it easier for agencies to seek out the improvements at the back end and in the field that provide true IT superiority.