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DOD To Upgrade Networks For Always-On Connectivity

CIO Teri Takai told Congress that greater use of mobile devices and social networks requires changes in the Defense Department's network strategy.
The Department of Defense (DOD) is investing in networks that can provide always-on connectivity to support the military's growing use of mobile devices and greater dependency on the Internet for information sharing, the agency's new CIO told Congress.

In testimony (pdf) before the House Armed Services Committee last week, DOD CIO Teri Takai said the department will use some of the $38.4 billion it's requested for IT investment in fiscal year 2012 to build a network that can ensure connectivity not only to users who work desk jobs, but also for military users on the edge of the network, including soldiers in combat situations.

"The increasing use of social media, smart phones, and tablet computers has made information sharing an expectation," said Takai, who also is acting assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration. "Our challenge today is ensuring our networks can securely support the information demands of our users--users who require access to information anywhere and anytime across the DOD Information Enterprise, allowing them to make informed decisions in the execution of their missions."

To this end, Takai plans to unveil a DOD IT Enterprise Infrastructure Optimization Strategy and Plan by the end of June to show how the department will improve its IT infrastructure and operations in five areas: network services, computing services, application and data services, end-user services, and IT business processes, she said.

The plan also includes measured network consolidation through the end of fiscal year 2012, with a ramp up in those activities through fiscal year 2015, Takai said.

"This consolidation will make us better positioned to embrace emerging technology and provide cutting-edge capabilities to our war fighters," she said.

Indeed, branches of the military have been exploring the use of cutting-edge technologies to improve warfare tactics, planning and missions. The Army, for example, is in the process of giving soldiers in both the field and classroom environments their own personal handheld devices, such as smartphones and tablets. The idea behind the strategy is that faster, personalized access to information will help to improve their performance. These devices may require network connectivity in places where traditionally the Internet has not been available.

Takai also reiterated department plans to invest $2.8 billion of its 2012 IT budget request in cybersecurity to defend DOD networks that are "are under constant attack from cyber security threats" coming from both the Web and malicious software. These investments will be outlined in the plan as well, she said.

New DOD technology investments to secure networks include Public Key Infrastructure-based smartcards for identity management and a Host-based Security System that will be installed on workstations to prevent people from removing large amounts of data from the classified DOD network by rewriting it to a removable storage device, she said.

The latter in particular is a response to last year's Cablegate scandal, in which a data breach and the posting of confidential documents to the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks became an international incident.

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