Department of Defense deputy CIO David Wennergren oversees the largest information technology budget and organization anywhere, spending more than $30 billion annually on IT. Recently, he talked with InformationWeek about the challenges of managing such a complex organization, as well as topics like cloud computing, cybersecurity, IT procurement and more.
InformationWeek: What are you doing to break down information stovepipes across the military?
Wennergren: It's a conundrum any large organization faces. A decade ago, local commands built local IT solutions to meet their local needs, and there was a certain amount of agility to that. However, as the Web emerged, two problems emerged with it. If local commands are only building everything for local needs, you end up with a lot of duplication of effort and information stovepipes.
Like other large organizations, we have been moving toward behaving like a big enterprise. Some of this work has been in place for as long as a decade, like the Department of the Navy moving to a single Intranet, and some has been more recent, like work to reduce the number of legacy applications and move to common solutions.
One answer has been to build big IT systems, but the size of the DoD is so big that those big IT systems tend to be slow to deliver and cumbersome. In parallel, we've seen the emergence of a services-style approach. Web services could get our organization to where we have certain core enterprise services that we demand for use across the entire organization.
Local people would then use those enterprise services and build their own local services. We've mandated certain enterprise services already: a single collaboration tool (which is Adobe Connect), a single content staging service, a content discovery service.
We're continuing to work through that list of services everybody will use. If you can take your data and expose it so other people can consume it and align yourself in a services-oriented approach, you'll be able to break down those information stovepipes and you'll also get capabilities in place much more rapidly than if you build a big IT system.
InformationWeek: What are you doing to ensure your SOA strategy does stay on track and brings real results?
Wennergren: We have to be clear in our approach. We put in place the net-centric data strategy and the net-centric services strategy -- fundamental documents about how you become part of the services-oriented approach. Regardless of whether you are trying to build command and control or you're trying to build logistics support, there's a common way we want you to approach it. There will also be certain core enterprise services delivered for everyone. These common services avoid one of the problems you see sometimes in SOA where everybody wants to go their own way and they do it separately. We really are trying to have everybody be aligned.