DOD lays the foundation for better sharing
The Joint Information Environment initiative eventually could give warfighters seamless access to data at any time, from anywhere, through any device.
An ambitious Defense Department initiative to revamp how it delivers information and systems to the warfighter could take information sharing to a whole new level.
The Joint Information Environment aims to simplify and standardize IT operations across the department to create a seamless information ecosystem in which DOD personnel and warfighters are able to access the information they need quickly and securely.
JIE, which has its roots in a joint project of the Army, the U.S. Africa Command and the U.S. European Command, emerged as a top DOD initiative as part of the IT Enterprise Strategy and Roadmap in September 2011.
Although the initiative is still taking shape, it appears to be positioned as the lens through which DOD officials look at nearly every aspect of their IT operations, from cybersecurity and cloud computing strategies to network and data center consolidation. To one extent or another, many of the department’s IT programs are now being geared toward making JIE a reality.
“This standardized information and network infrastructure will eliminate the organizational barriers to information sharing and eliminate seams [that] malicious actors can exploit to gain access to vital information or systems,” said Defense CIO Teri Takai, speaking to a congressional panel in March.
The emerging shape of JIE became clearer in August when the Defense Information Systems Agency released its strategic plan for 2013-2018. From DISA’s perspective, JIE has six key components:
- A consolidated IT infrastructure accessible by all means from anywhere within DOD and by any authorized user.
- Joint enterprise mission assurance solutions, which provide secure access to information using any device and from anywhere in DOD.
- Integrated enterprise services that improve the efficiency of DOD IT operations and make it easier to meet the needs of joint and coalition mission partners.
- An overarching enterprise security architecture.
- Electromagnetic spectrum services, ranging from short-notice on-the-ground operational support at the forward edge to long-range planning.
- Secure mobile technology, which leverages commercial technology to speed the delivery of new solutions to the field.
As this list suggests, DOD officials are looking to JIE to provide an IT environment that is much easier to adapt as technology or requirements evolve.
JIE will “increase the flexibility of defense networks to incorporate or respond to changes in emerging technology by minimizing the disparity within the department’s information architecture,” Takai told lawmakers.
Much of the vision for JIE depends on the development of the DOD Enterprise Cloud Environment, which is part of the cloud computing strategy that the department released in July. DOD, of course, began working to shift its operations to the Web long before JIE arrived on the scene. But the new strategy formally aligns its cloud computing efforts with the larger aims of JIE.
“Detailed cloud computing implementation planning has been ongoing and informs the JIE projected plan of actions and milestones in capabilities engineering, operation and governance efforts,” according to the strategy.
The cloud is just one of three primary efforts to establish a common IT infrastructure for JIE. As with the cloud, the other initiatives are not new, but they are being given a new sense of focus by JIE.
First, DOD is pushing forward with its plans to consolidate, standardize and optimize its data centers and network infrastructure. DOD officials also continue to move toward standardizing the department’s hardware and software platforms, both in terms of transitioning existing programs to standard platforms and mandating standards for new programs.
Clearly, JIE is a work in progress, but the department believes the work will pay off.
“The result of these consolidation initiatives will be a DOD Joint Information Environment that provides the warfighter with the required access to information and services needed to accomplish their mission from any location with any device and that are dependable in the face of cyber threats by a capable adversary,” Takai said.