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U.S. Defense Dept. Information Systems CIO Opens Up On Shared IT

DISA CIO John Garing reveals much about how his team coordinates procurement, collaboration, and cloud computing within the often competing military branches.
John Garing, ic Planning
John Garing
DISA Chief Information Officer and Director, Strategic Planning

InformationWeek: You've got these high demands of security, availability, reliability, and it makes procurement an arduous process in some ways. Do you think procurement processes need to be or can be overhauled?

Garing: It's our belief that it has enough flexibility to allow the rapid and agile kinds of procurement you have to have to keep pace with technology that changes in months, not in years.

The tendency, though, is that the process owners in the larger procurement system sometimes tend to treat things that aren't battleships or carriers like they are, and the larger the program, the more certain that's going to happen. The technique is to do things in more easily achievable modules or increments, and if you do things in a collaborative environment where you put services on the network to be consumed as they are available, you can do the development, the testing, and the certification in parallel and not serially over time so that you can try to keep pace with the changing technology. It will prove to the world that you can do this much faster than anyone today recognizes.

One thing, though -- we need to handle risk commensurate with how serious it is, not assuming that everything is very, very risky. I think we just have to be a little more adept at assessing risk and treating what we're doing commensurate with the risk we're incurring and not overmanage it like we sometimes tend to do.

InformationWeek: Are there a couple information silos and technology silos that haven't been taken broken down yet that over the next few years that the infrastructure and processes you hope can be fixed?

Garing: This is me speaking now. I would like the business systems in the department to really be able to share information so that if the Army has a great way of buying bolts and a system to do it, let the Navy and the Marine Corps and the Air Force do it, too, and you expose that to the department at large. The DoD's business transformation agency is aimed just at that, and their whole purpose in life is to break down silos. We're partners with them on the back-end stuff.

Another is in the intelligence system and the ability to share information outside silos, to discover and consume, and that is as much a culture and policy as it is a technology issue. The goal then with the enterprise infrastructure is to enable that to happen, so that the systems are there and it becomes a question of policy and culture and not of systems, policy, and culture.


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