DOD pitches for budget boost

DOD pitches for budget boost

A lack of a worldview affects personnel retention, DOD deputy CIO Marvin Langston says.

Reliance on commercial products hinders IT advances, deputy CIO says

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

One problem for the Defense Department inherent in buying commercial products is that the military cannot take the lead in information technology just by purchasing such products, said DOD's deputy chief information officer.

'The very best we can reach is parity with industry,' said Marvin J. Langston, deputy CIO and deputy assistant secretary of Defense.

Just as when DOD officials met the challenge posed by Soviet intercontinental ballistics missiles in the 1950s by 'massive investments, doctrine and training,' so officials now need to invest more in security to beat back the threat to DOD's network infrastructure, he told a congressional breakfast seminar audience at the Capitol Hill Club last month.

Langston's speech was a plug to the largely congressional audience for an increase in spending on systems security, personnel retention and technical science research. He wondered aloud if it would take a brazen attack on worldwide systems for people to realize that such a move would weaken America's position as a benevolent superpower and damage the country's economy.

Langston confessed the skepticism he felt early in his Navy career at Congress' role in the DOD budget process, and he thanked the audience for the role they play in scrutinizing military technology investments because DOD 'rarely changes from within.' He also quipped that he has changed from a sailor who thought Capitol Hill was the problem to realizing Congress' importance to DOD.

Although initiatives such as the Global Information Grid will rely heavily on commercial products to link DOD's 2 million users and enable secure communications, Langston predicted that DOD will need a 'proprietary enabler on top' of the network.

'Rather than tear down the cultures of the services and adopt [commercial] products, we need to reaffirm the cultures of the services ' and tie them together,' while working to achieve Joint Vision 2010's goal of information superiority, Langston said.

The lack of a worldview that places primary importance on IT also affects personnel retention, Langston said. 'We don't have a coherent investment and don't have a coherent way of training and retaining people. We lament people leaving DOD for industry jobs,' he said.

He called attention to the erosion of DOD science and technology spending and reaffirmed the importance of the National Science Advisory Board.

'We're riding on the feedstock of what we developed before,' such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-developed Internet, said Langston, the former DARPA Information Systems Office director. Government officials should not rely on industry to develop open standards systems such as the Internet, he said.

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