DOD Aims for Network Consolidation in Its ‘Fourth Estate’

The Pentagon plans to streamline the networks and standardize the IT functions of its support agencies.

The Defense Department’s budget totals $674 billion, and a huge chunk of that goes to the military service branches. However, nearly a fifth —18 percent — is devoted to the “fourth estate,” the defense headquarters, support agencies and activities not inside the military departments.

The Pentagon wants to consolidate the networks of the fourth estate, which includes 28 agencies, and use that as a template for a broader IT services reform across the DOD. The fourth estate currently has 34 different networks, which makes the agencies vulnerable to cyberattacks. It also makes it complicated to use the various networks. 

Rory Kinney, DOD’s acting deputy CIO for information enterprise, said the Pentagon wants to slash the number of networks in the fourth estate down to just one nonclassified network and one secret network. 

“We are starting with the fourth estate,” Kinney said in December during AFCEA’s Air Force IT Day in McLean, Va., according to Federal News Network. “The intent is to drive the fourth estate to a standardized solution set as a representative of the rest of the environment. The intent is to get it right in the fourth estate before we go and start monkeying around with any of the military departments. We want to get it right here first.” 

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Find out how and why DISA has deployed SDN for the Pentagon. 

DOD to Streamline IT Functions of Support Agencies

The fourth estate’s networks are a jumble, and they “are all in various states,” Kinney said. “Some are very well-built. Some have real problems.” 

Indeed, Kinney noted, according to Federal News Network, that at one of the fourth estate agencies, if a user has a problem and calls a help desk line, “only about 25 percent of the time is the telephone actually answered and the problem resolved.” The Pentagon believes it can resolve that particular issue by hiring a single commercial service provider to support a consolidated help desk, according to Federal News Network.

The consolidation effort for the fourth estate will involve numerous functions, including networking, computing, licensing, IT service management and anything else needed to get to a single classified and a single unclassified network, FCW reports

Kinney said that data centers for the “dot EDU” organizations, such as the Defense Acquisition University and Uniformed Services University, are being optimized in a separate process. 

The team that is working on the fourth estate consolidations was expected to be transferred to the office of DOD CIO Dana Deasy last month, Kinney said. According to FCW, he said the goal is to “create an army of folks that not only look at capability delivery, but also can say, ‘How do I recapitalize what I already own?’

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Jan 03 2019

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