Military CIOs reassure lawmakers on IT transformation

Congressmen still voice frustrations about pace of change

(Updated) Key military CIOs last week laid IT successes before a House Armed Services subcommittee, but conceded few metrics exist to chart its course as part of military transformation.

Clearly, the CIOs believe a great deal is being accomplished in military IT, including the development of the Global Information Grid, moving to converged Internet Protocol, preparing to field the DOD Warfighter Information Network-Tactical and much more.

But lawmakers, who appeared impressed by such successes at times, still voiced frustrations about the pace of transformation, including the nettlesome acquisition issue, during the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities hearing.

To chairman Jim Saxton's (R-N.J.) question about how Congress 'gets more bang for the buck' in IT terms, John Grimes, DOD CIO, said, 'This is very difficult [to answer], because it ' touches everything we do in the decision process; of course command and control is very critical to the forces, and IT is the enabler''

For example, metrics on the utility of information security as a whole across DOD, estimated to cost $2 billion a year, was sparse, he replied. 'It is just difficult to measure that.'

But numbers of hostile penetrations for single viruses into DOD networks were available. Air Force Lt. Gen. Charlie Croom, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, said some 17 million malicious events per day hit the Internet.

'In the DOD, we got about 166,000 events, and about 2.3 compromised computers per day (half the 2004 rate),' Croom said.

During the recent 'Blackmail' worm event, 300,000 machines were infected worldwide, although at DOD, only 30 were infected. Although 'one is too many,' data 'show we're headed in the right direction,' with 'areas where we have very good statistics and we can show where our dollars are cost-effective,' Croom said.

Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.) repeatedly pressed Lt. Gen. Steven Boutelle, Army CIO, about the Future Combat Systems program. He said despite numerous briefings, 'We don't have a very clear sense of exactly what that's intended to accomplish ' it seems to be an evolving picture'and consequently one without end.'

He said it appeared more 'open-ended' than simply 'a vision of network information accessible to all,' using red and blue computer screen icons for a 'visual battlefield.'

He wondered where this 'enormously expensive' concept was heading.

Boutelle answered obliquely, saying, 'Future Combat Systems is bringing new technologies in: unmanned ground systems, unmanned sensors, intelligent weapons systems, non line to sight cannon'a whole family of platforms and technologies''

Instead of bringing them all online in 2014, 'The Army has said let's bring technologies forward now'be they weapons systems, be they networks, be they radios, be they sensors.'

The military information experts also proposed more leveraging of private industry best practices, noting Wal-Mart's success in supply chain management and acquisitions systems. Looking to the private-sector triumphs should make the Pentagon's business components lean and agile, Defense officials said.

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