Marines take on the enterprise
- By Thomas R. Temin
- Jul 17, 2002
Debra M. Filippi, Corps C4 Chief
Debra M. Filippi, the Marine Corps' deputy CIO, knows the C4 world from the ground up.
She started her career in the late 1970s on the nuts and bolts end of the command, control, communications and computers business'as a programmer for the Worldwide Military Command and Control System. In addition to her CIO title, she also is the Corps' deputy director for C4.
The Defense Department switched off WWMCCS several years ago, giving way to the Global Command and Control System, but Filippi is keenly aware of the demarcation between tactical and garrison systems, as well as how they must interact.
Following her WWMCCS days, Filippi had stints in various Navy program management areas, including the Navy Warfare Gaming System, an early modeling and simulation program.
She worked at the Patent and Trademark Office in the mid-1980s as manager of its $500 million patent application and search automation contract. Filippi, a member of the Senior Executive Service, returned to the Navy in 1989, winding up as deputy to the Navy CIO.
GCN executive editor Thomas R. Temin interviewed Filippi during the recent Software Technology Conference in Salt Lake City. GCN: What are the top three Marine Corps software initiatives?
FILIPPI: We look not only at command, control, communications and computer systems, but also at what we call the supporting establishment. Many practitioners think the CIO should look solely at business applications, but that's not the case because we are committed to network-centric warfare and network-centric operations. To do that, you have to have a cohesive architecture.
So, one of the areas we're focusing on with respect to software applications is the enterprise architecture. We're trying to build an architecture that all of our functional managers can contribute unique capability to. We want to provide the highway system, the tollbooths, the features they can all take advantage of, such as a shared data environment where you don't have to create new data elements every time you put a new application out there. The goal is to minimize the opportunity for conflict.
Building that architecture environment is the first order of business.GCN: How are you building it?
FILIPPI: We have gone to Mitre Corp. of Bedford, Mass., to help us document the as-is portion of our supporting establishment. And we will merge that with the tactical piece to create that full, 180-degree spectrum.
Then we'll look to the Marine Corps Systems Command to become the caretaker of that architecture because it builds applications on behalf of the functional managers.GCN: Does your architecture go along with the approach now being pushed by the Office of Management and Budget?
FILIPPI: That's a good point.
You have to constantly ask yourself two questions: What's the value added? And, are we doing an architecture just for the sake of saying we have one? We're very sensitive to that. But the fact of the matter is that you have an end state out there. That's how we're looking at it. Not as an end state in and of itself but the journey that helps us achieve the end state.GCN: How far along are you?
FILIPPI: The CIO office just started in the fall of last year focusing on the supporting establishment. For other pieces of the architecture by the systems command, where they've focused feverishly on the tactical environment, there has really been a more mature process under way for the better part of a year.
Our hope is that by the end of this fiscal year, we'll be able to blend the two together and say that we have one enterprise architecture document.GCN: What's your second software priority?
FILIPPI: Necking down our applications. The Marine Corps went through a fairly rigorous process last summer'primarily driven by the notion of migrating to the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet'of establishing a community of legacy applications that were divided into functional areas: manpower, logistics, financial. That helped us determine the applications we have.
We started from approximately 4,000 through numerous data calls and have been able to neck down to about 400 applications.GCN: What was the strangest thing you found in that inventory?
FILIPPI: Games. We would discover games. But I think the thing I was most overwhelmed by was the number of superfluous versions of like pieces of software.
None of that is to implicate anyone as bad actors. But it is an indication of how we have fractured our network and given it an isolated perspective. What we're trying to do is make that network unified.GCN: Is the Marine Corps Enterprise Network separate from NMCI?
FILIPPI: For the Marine Corps, NMCI is a part of the MCEN. It is a subelement. MCEN is the aggregate of the tactical and support elements. And as we've found in recent operations, that tactical world has got to be able to depend on the supporting establishment as we try to shrink our footprint and as we try to rely on the resources back in garrison.GCN: Is there a third big thing?
FILIPPI: The third big thing that we're really concentrating on is enterprise initiatives or enterprise solutions.
Early last fall, our office, in conjunction with the Marine Corps Systems Command, awarded an enterprise license contract to Oracle Corp. We did a cost-benefit analysis and determined that, based upon the number of individual licenses we had, over a period of five years we could end up saving the Marine Corps approximately $18 million.
Another example is trying to create a shared data environment. We're trying to come up with an enterprise portal solution.GCN: Similar to the MyAirForce portal?
FILIPPI: That's a great analogy. We've had several functional perspectives try to do just that for their communities. What we'd like to do is create, at a high level, a consistent portal perspective and then allow the communities to tailor it as they see fit.
We think that by doing this we'll be able to avoid spending a lot of money'five, six, seven times over.GCN: Recently, OMB endorsed the Extensible Markup Language, Java 2 Enterprise Edition and Microsoft .Net as the basis for government enterprise architecture components. Are you looking at those?
FILIPPI: The short answer is yes, certainly. Have we made any decisions? No. XML has great promise, but I wouldn't say we're limiting our investigation to just that.GCN: How about wireless?
FILIPPI: We have piloted on very small-scale things like the BlackBerry handheld for our unclassified network. Research In Motion Ltd. of Waterloo, Ontario, has made great leaps in the BlackBerry's encryption capabilities and encryption techniques that we thought were worth looking into from a pilot perspective.GCN: As you develop your enterprise architecture and applications, what's your sense of how much coding will be done in-house versus by contractors?
FILIPPI: There is a tremendous amount of experience in hands-on computer programming experience available to us in industry. We have really necked down our in-house software development during the last couple of years'even to the extent we are phasing out on the Marines' side the military occupation specialty that does computer programming, in deference to folks who are more Web-savvy. We're deferring to industry to provide that capability.GCN: But wouldn't the ability to learn that skill aid recruitment and retention?
FILIPPI: I don't think that's the case. The decision to do that is realizing we're not doing hands-on Ada programming, Cobol programming or Visual Basic programming as much anymore. Most of our large-scale efforts are contracted out, and we really saw the need for networking skills, which includes Web-enabling and portals, those skills that are more at a systems administrator level.
You've heard the term network-centric warfare. We're not talking about our systems being interoperable as much as our networks being interoperable. You send very few civilians out on the battlefield, so there's really a need for someone to be out on the battlefield who can help make the networks interoperable.