Gen Cartwright – DoD IT in Stone Age

Patrick Thibodeau has an interesting piece in Computerworld Top general says Defense Department IT in ‘Stone Age’ where he summarizes Hoss’ comments at FOSE.  

Cartwright cited problems with proprietary systems that aren’t connected to anything else and are unable to quickly adapt to changing needs. “We have huge numbers of data links that move data between proprietary platforms — one point to another point,” he said.

Modifying hardware “takes forever,” and even modifying software can take an enormous amount time, the general said.  “If you want to open up the operational flight software in an airplane, think something along the lines of five years and at least $300 million just to open it up and close it, independent of what you want to try to do to improve it,” Cartwright said. “We’ve got to find ways to do that better and more efficiently inside the Department of Defense for sure.”

He also highlighted Vivek Kundra’s concerns

“The same IT contractors keep getting government business not because they are necessarily providing the best technology, but because they understand the procurement system. He described it as almost an “IT cartel” within federal IT.”

The DoD “is unable to keep pace with the rate of IT innovation in the commercial marketplace,” according to the House committee report. “By way of example, the private sector is able to deliver capabilities and incrementally improve on those initial deliveries on a 12-to-18-month cycle; defense IT systems typically take 48-60 months to deliver.”

Amber Corrin authored a similar summary for FCW and added from Cartwright’s remarks:

Faster acquisition methods are needed to counter an improvised explosive device threat that tends to evolve on a 30-day cycle or a seven-year process for replacing the Humvee, he said.  He praised the incremental approach to acquisition used for the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, pointing to that program as a model for development and deployment of military systems. He said that the first instantiation of the Predator has had three iterations, each integrating new technologies.

Cartwright said that the cyber domain is promising for the U.S., but that it is critical to get it right early.  “The Cyber Command and the military cyber components are part of a new structure integrated across many disciplines,” he said. “But we can’t isolate cyberspace the way space was [when it was established as an operational domain]. This is too important for our nation.”  He also stressed the importance of the new DoD Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace, noting that it serves as a basic framework from which the department – and broader government – can use and build on. “The cyber strategy is an iterative framework to take us forward in cyber…it’s going to evolve, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.

The DoD and Federal Government are losing two great IT leaders with Gen Cartwright and Vivek Kundra moving on.  Hopefully new leaders emerge to advance and expand their vision to overhaul IT Acquisition, integrating new innovative models.