Defense agencies should avoid putting too many specifics about IT in requirements documents for major systems, DoD leaders said Tuesday in a plea to help equip warfighters with the latest technology.
Too often, service members find themselves with obsolete IT because many large orders, such as tanks, take years to complete, said Maj. Gen. Mark Bowman, director of command, control, communications and computers (C4) for the Joint Staff. By the time the tanks roll off assembly lines, the technology inside is outdated.
DoD should be willing to accept partial solutions when drafting requirements, Bowman said, speaking at a Government Executive Media Group discussion Tuesday. The Pentagon can order tanks, for example, equipped with connections for communications gear but without the devices themselves.
When the contractor begins delivering, DoD can “buy the new radio off-the-shelf or from some vendor who’s got the best thing going that interoperates with the standards that are set already, and plug it in. To me, that’s the way of the future. That’s the way of IT.”
The Defense Information Systems Agency has learned from experience.
“DISA recently did a STIG — a Standardized Technical Implementation Guide — for an Android mobile device,” said Rear Adm. David Simpson, DISA’s vice director. “By the time we finished the STIG, how to use it in the DoD network securely, the product had reached the end of its life.”
Simpson said all Pentagon components should build more flexibility into their IT planning processes.
“The adversary can pick and choose where they want to be on the technology curve,” he said. “And they can be as agile as they want to be. And if we don’t have processes that allow us to rapidly respond, we will cede cyber territory to the adversary.”