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American Forces Press Service

Information Access Equals Mission Success, CIO Says

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2014 – Mission success depends on the ability of the Defense Department's leaders to act decisively based on the most timely and accurate information, DOD's chief information officer said here yesterday.

"Information is a strategic asset," Teresa M. Takai said in a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee's readiness and management support subcommittee.

Takai was joined in her testimony by Katrina McFarland, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, and Kevin J. Scheid, the Pentagon's acting deputy chief management officer.

Ensuring commanders and troops can access secure information networks is the keystone of the department's efforts in building the Joint Information Environment, Takai said.

The department is undertaking "a very ambitious effort" to realign and restructure how the networks, hardware and software housed in its data centers is constructed, operated, acquired and defended, Takai said. The goal, she explained, is to provide better information access to users while improving not only the department's ability to defend the networks and data, but also to make them responsive to changing technological and operational factors.

The effort is in direct support of the department's information technology acquisition process and its business transformation efforts, Takai noted. By standardizing technology across the department, she told the panel, acquisition becomes cheaper and easier.

The Joint Information Environment is intended to empower military decision-making and provide warfighters and mission partners with a shared IT infrastructure, Takai said. This consists of combined networks with common configurations and management and a common set of enterprise services with a single security architecture, she explained.

"The ultimate benefit of the JIE is really to the commander in the field," Takai said. "It really allows for more innovative integration of information technologies, operations and cyber security. It's really the tempo more appropriate to our fast-paced operation conditions."

Additionally, a single security architecture enables cyber operators at every level to see the status of networks, therefore providing more reliable operations and security, she said.

"The complexity of our networks today makes it very difficult for our cyber operators to actually see who's on our network to be able to defend our networks as we would like them to," Takai said.

One of the ways the department is reducing network complexity is through consolidation of data centers, operation centers and help desks, she said. The move is intended to provide users and systems with timely and secure access to the data and services needed to accomplish their assigned missions, regardless of their location.

Existing program initiatives and modernization funds will be used to deploy and switch networks throughout the department to JIE standards, Takai noted.

"Simply stated, JIE will help improve our ability to field capability faster and more efficiently," she said, "and allow us to be better stewards of taxpayer resources."

It's also important that the department increases visibility into the IT budget and spending patterns and strengthens the analysis of IT investments as part of its overall governance and oversight processes, she said.

The CIO's office is working together with the department's cost assessment, acquisition and management offices to identify ways to address the systemic conditions that led to the current "stovepiped" IT infrastructure, Takai said.

"This is critical if we are to achieve the agility and responsiveness from IT that our warfighters demand," she said.

The intent is to develop new processes in acquisition and budgeting that will endure in an IT environment that is constantly evolving, Takai said.

"Maintaining information dominance for our warfighter is critical to our national security," she said.

The efforts the department is making "will ensure that the department's information capabilities provide better mission effectiveness and security and are delivered in a manner that makes the most efficient use of our financial resources," Takai said.

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