Defense Department, Other Federal Agencies

Lots of DISA puns are possible, but I refuse to cloud the issue.

Yes, I’ve been scarce lately. Getting paid by the word will do that to you. Last Friday, I attended the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Forecast to Industry, which is basically where all the vendors come to find out what DISA is looking to buy in the near future.

The big thing at DISA these days is the idea of turning itself into an on-demand IT services provider, where customers–the military services, the White House, and the intelligence community–can go to connect, collaborate, communicate and integrate. In other words, their strategy is to turn themselves into a giant private cloud computing provider for the national leadership, “warfighters” and the agencies that support them.

That vision is a long way off. Right now, DISA is just trying to get its customers to embrace the idea of standardized, virtualized servers that can be quickly (in a matter of minutes) provisioned, and let DISA host their common services, like email and human resources self-service applications, in a virtualized cloud of servers distributed across DISA’s data centers. And the agency is providing services like Forge.mil, a software collaboration environment (currently hosted on Navy servers, but about to be pulled into DISA’s Defense Enterprise Computing Centers on their virtualization platform, called RACE).

John Garing, DISA’s director of strategic planning, was former DISA director Charlie Croom’s CIO. He and DISA CTO Dave Mihelcic have been thinking a lot about the direction DISA needs to move in to serve DOD more quickly, and the model Garing has latched onto looks a lot like Salesforce.com — create a core set of application services that customers can use to get common tasks done (SOA, software-as-a-service, applications and servers on demand); give them a way to develop new services on top of that platform and quickly test, certify and deploy them (The FORGE.mil platform, which will soon include TestForge ), and get software vendors and integrators to build to the standardized environment to lower certification, testing and deployment costs, and allow customers to save by paying for just what they use.

“Forge is the embryo from where that’s going to grow,” Garing told me. “In the middle of june, we had the four services here, and went through all this stuff including Forge and RACE. Out of that session, Gen. Sorenson (the Army’s CIO and G6) asked us to provide those capabilities forward so that smart lieutenants in Afghanistan could use those tools.”

The “smart lieutenants” are the types of people who put together things like CAVNET, the collaborative website that the Army’s 1st Cavalry used to share ground truth in Iraq. By putting collaboration tools like FORGE.mil–which can potentially be used for a lot more than collaborative software development–within reach of officers in Afghanistan over a satcom link or in a command post at Bagram, for example, DISA could create the opportunity for grassroots, community creation of the next great thing to help save lives and speed the mission.

There’s just one problem with moving DOD to a virtualized cloud infrastructure– the current state of DOD IT is a giant cluster of purpose-bought systems, with point-to-point integration, and a whole raft of legacy operating systems and interfaces that would drive most IT manager to tears. The recent Navy Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services RFP, for example apparently asks for backward compatibility with everything back to DOS 3.2, according to one contractor familiar with it–because there are still systems in place that rely on software written with hooks for those legacy operating systems.

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Cyberdefense and Information Assurance, Defense Department, DISA, tech, Web 2.0 and Social Media

FORGE.mil set for secret code

Update [7/22] I spoke with DISA’s Rob Vietmeyer yesterday. FORGE.mil currently consists of a collaborative software development site; it’s open to use by all of DOD and contractors with NIPRNet (and now SIPRNet) access to create applications that can be openly shared within DOD. The impetus for creating a classified net version of FORGE.mil came from STRATCOM and the Army–STRATCOM has already moved a project onto FORGE on SIPRNet.

Currently, the Navy is hosting the FORGE platform. By October, Vietmeyer said DISA will release a version running on RACE, DISA’s cloud computing platform, hosted out of DISA’s Defense Enterprise Computing Centers (DECCs). That will turn FORGE into a cloud application, distributed across multiple sites.

FORGE could potentially provide a platform for the services to create software repositories for government-owned and open-source code. The Navy currently is creating its own repository, called SHARE; SHARE is on SIPRNet because it contains code for C4ISR systems and other combat systems. THe move of FORGE onto SIPR means that it could conceivably become the platform to support SHARE. Vietmeyer says he’s been having regular conversations with the SHARE team, which is trying to create a taxonomy for all of the code in the Navy inventory–something that could be extremely useful for the other services if it gets ported over to a common platform.

The development projects on the SIPR side of FORGE either use classified algorithms that are restricted to government use but are shareable within DOD, or are continuations of unclassified open and community source projects that need access to classified data. A large percentage of them, Vietmeyer says, are C4ISR related. Based on STRATCOM’s recent elevation of cyberwarfare as a mission, it’s possible that development of cyber command and control applications is one of the projects that made STRATCOM eager to have a SIPR version of FORGE.mil.

While FORGE.mil is free right now, and for shared projects only, the upcoming ProjectForge capability will allow DISA customers to pay for a private portal for collaborative software development within the Global Information Grid, advancing DISA’s goal to become a cloud service provider for DOD and related agencies and organizations.

From DISA, release on 7/20:

FORGE.MIL NOW READY FOR CLASSIFIED PROJECTS

Arlington, Va. – The Defense Department’s newest collaborative software development tool is now available for use in a classified development environment. The Defense Information Systems Agency granted Forge.mil Interim Authority to Operate on SIPRNet, the DoD’s classified version of the civilian Internet.

“This was a remaining crucial capability to offer our DoD development community,” said Rob Vietmeyer, Forge.mil Project Director. “With 2200 users, 500 contributors with engaged development and 93 projects on Forge.mil, we’ll now be able to offer even more with this IATO for classified use up to SECRET,” he added.

Forge.mil enables collaborative software development and cross-program sharing of software, system components, and services in support of net-centric operations and warfare. Already in Initial Operational Capability for unclassified use, Forge.mil is a collaborative environment for shared development of open source and DoD community source software. DISA expects four more components of Forge.mil to be launched in future releases: CertificationForge, which will support agile certification; ProjectForge, which will provide private project portals; StandardsForge, which will drive collaborative standards development; and TestForge, which will provide on-demand software testing tools.

Forge.mil is available to the U.S. military, DoD government civilians, and DoD contractors for new and existing projects, enabling the organizations to save money, to improve software development efficiency, and to drive collaborative dynamics that help deliver better software faster to the warfighter. To register or host a project on Forge.mil, visit http://www.disa.mil/forge for more information.
DISA, a Combat Support Agency, engineers and provides command and control capabilities and enterprise infrastructure to continuously operate and assure a global net-centric enterprise in direct support to joint warfighters, National level leaders, and other mission and coalition partners across the full spectrum of operations.

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People

On tap: Interviews with DISA’s John Garing and Tony Montemarano

I’ll be meandering down to Arlington today to the Defense Information Systems Agency for an interview with DISA’s CIO, John Garing, and then will be speaking with DISA’s Component Acquisition Executive, Tony Montemarano. Topics on tap for Mr. Garing: cloud computing and DISA’s open-source initiative, Forge.mil. And I’ll be asking Mr. Montemarano about the focus of the new administration on “fixing” procurement, and how the innovations in acquisition programs started during Lt Gen Croom’s watch might be expanded or modified to meet the demands for better, faster, and cheaper acquisitions. I’m hoping to talk with him the “two-button” approach to Net-Centric Enterprise Services and the “third” button planned for the next iteration of the collaboration program; the “adopt” approach taken with NECC and DKO; and how those can be applied broadly to procurement at DISA.

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