Department of Defense CIO John Sherman talks at DoDIIS 2023

Dec 13 2023

DoDIIS 2023: DOD Moves Forward on Cloud Capability at the Edge

CIO John Sherman lists the department’s major IT priorities.

The Department of Defense’s current IT priorities include the expansion of 5G to all DOD components, continuing work on the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability and the implementation of zero trust, says agency CIO John Sherman.

These priorities are set against ongoing conflicts around the world — “a very dynamic battle space that we may have to deal with,” he said Wednesday at the Department of Defense Intelligence Information System Worldwide Conference in Portland, Ore.

Not only must new technologies being implemented by DOD be affordable, scalable and flexible, but “we’d better have information technology that can survive, provide key capabilities and win in all those environments, whether it’s mud in eastern Ukraine or aboard a U.S. DDG” destroyer in the Red Sea, Sherman said.

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Enterprise Cloud Capability Becomes Reality for DOD

The JWCC contract, which was awarded in December 2022, enables DOD to provide enterprise cloud capability “for the first time” for all three security classifications — unclassified, classified and top secret, Sherman said.

DOD, along with the Defense Information Systems Agency, is piloting a mesh network of on-premises computing platforms to be called the Joint Operational Edge initiative that will serve as a bridge to edge computing environments.

“I would characterize it almost as cloud tradecraft,” Sherman said. “We’re talking about going from [the U.S. mainland] out to the very tactical edge, but we’ve got to have a capability between here and there, and that’s what the JOE cloud is all about. We’re figuring out how to do true enterprise edge computing at scale.”

In the meantime, DOD is also looking to JWCC 2.0, which will continue the agency’s ability to buy cloud services directly from commercial cloud providers; JWCC is in the first year of a three-year base contract. “We are firmly committed to multivendor, and that’s what we’re going to be doing going forward,” Sherman said.

READ MORE: Get the details on the various cloud environments available to agencies.

Zero Trust, 5G Take Priority for DOD

Edge computing also needs a solid network to work properly, which is why DOD is running 5G pilots to test the impact of the technology on existing communication and electrical systems, Sherman said.

Hill Air Force Base in Utah was the site of one such recent pilot, looking at how 5G affected avionics and other related air activity, he said, adding that similar pilots will continue.

“One of the big things we’re working on here is to get 5G on all DOD component areas,” Sherman said, meaning the entire agency.

The plan is to have 5G in the United States and overseas DOD locations by the end of fiscal year 2028, and for the network to be compliant with all open radio access network security protocols as well.

When it comes to zero trust, Sherman said, “it’s looking pretty good. It’s something we’re going to be able to accomplish, and we’re moving aggressively.”

DOD has until 2027 to create a zero-trust environment and has already begun to get implementation plans from the service branches, combatant commands and other DOD components, he said.

To learn more about DoDIIS 2023, visit our conference page. You can also follow us on X (formerly Twitter) at @FedTechMagazine to see behind-the-scenes moments.

Photography by Elizabeth Neus

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