Marine learns ins, outs of systems management

Marine learns ins, outs of systems management

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

Lance M. Bryant

'I felt I could make a difference,' he said about joining the Marines, even before entering the IT field.

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.During his 16-year Marine Corps career, Maj. Lance M. Bryant has transformed himself from an infantry officer to an information systems management officer.

Along the way, he's learned how to think critically about information technology, draw up information systems budgets and make successful pitches to commanding officers.

He has also learned about upsides and downsides.

"It's thankless, in a sense, dealing with computers. You can't please everyone," said Bryant, the 2nd Marine Division's ISMO. Still, he likes his job, which he described as a chief information officer-like position. "I have a lot more autonomy than guys I know in the civilian world," he said.

Through his annual IT budget proposals, he and his staff have convinced Maj. Gen. Robert Blackman, commander of the 2nd Marine Division, to spend 10 percent of the operations, maintenance and training budget on IT.

Another IT supporter is Maj. Gen. Emil R. "Buck" Bedard, Blackman's predecessor who is now the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force's commanding offer. He allocated $2.2 million in fiscal 1998, plus $1.6 million in year-end funds toward fiscal 1999 at the 2nd Marine Division, Bryant said. As a result, the division is expanding from 2,000 PCs to 2,500 this year, he said.

"He trusts us," Bryant said. Bryant said he reciprocates by being sure not to abuse the trust. "I have to convince myself it's a good plan before I can try to convince him."

Bryant's first choice of military service would have been to follow his father, who had served in the Air Force. He would have entered the Air Force if the service had agreed to pay him $1,000 a month for his senior year of college in his native state at Texas A&M University.

Marching on

With his offer spurned by the recruiter, he encountered a Marine Corps recruiter on a Sunday working in his office- "That should have told me something!" Bryant said- who showed him a couple of Corps videos that wowed him.

Bryant completed a platoon leaders course in the summer of 1983 at Quantico Marine Corps Base, Va., that didn't commit him to enlist. But two months after the Beirut barracks bombing in October 1983, Bryant joined the Marines. "I felt I could make a difference," he said.

After entering the Marines as an infantry officer, Bryant received a master's degree in computer systems management in 1992, completing a 21-month program at Monterrey, Calif.

He switched military occupation specialties in 1996 from infantry to data communicator after completing a payback modeling and simulation tour for full-time schooling at Quantico.

Bryant's IT strategic plan for the next fiscal year includes rewiring the LANs in 150 buildings to provide 10-Mbps networking to desktop PCs.

A diagram of the wiring set-up hangs on the wall across from his desk.

A contractor is doing site surveys this year to give 2nd Marine Division officials a cost estimate. "Before this, we were focusing on the WAN, on fiber or digital subscriber lines," Bryant said.

"This is the first time we've focused on the LAN internal piece. When we would add a PC to the network, we would run the wiring through" to new users, he said.

Bryant gets up at 5:30 a.m., drives 30 minutes to work and starts the day with an hour of physical training. When he rides a stationary bike, he likes to read computer industry trade publications.

Although he works 10 or 11 hours a day, he said he avoids working on the weekends and tries to leave the job at the office.

During an interview in his office, located in a converted hospital building, he said he was looking forward to going on vacation the following week and taking his kids on a boat he recently bought.

Animal house

A deer head is perched above the wall behind his desk and souvenirs from military exercises line the walls, but Bryant's focus remains on technical matters.

He wanted to know how the Marine Corps Systems Command will be able to fund PCs with a five-year lifecycle when it only has 80 percent of funding. 'That's 16 percent a year over five years," he said.

Beginning Oct. 1, the Marine Corps Systems Command will purchase PCs and servers centrally, through blanket purchasing agreements.

In recent years, organizations such as the 2nd Marine Division have bought their own hardware and software.

Bryant doesn't question the value of centralized purchasing, with a central warranty program helping the service save money, for example. But he said he didn't know how the Marines are going to pay for a five-year PC lifecycle.

He said he was also not sure what the Marines' commitment to the Non-Classified IP Router Network is. On deployments, the service usually gives much more bandwidth to the Secret IP Router Network connections. Bryant thinks the Marines will continue to do more for the regimented and deployed Marines, for security reasons.

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