Insight by Leidos

DoD Cloud Exchange 2023: Leidos’ Chad Buechel on consolidating 35 help desks, 30 networks and 2,500 data centers for DES

During Federal News Network’s DoD Cloud Exchange, Leidos’ Chad Buechel shares details on early progress developing a Defense Enclave Services transformation...

The Defense Enclave Services effort under the Fourth Estate Network Optimization initiatives aims to bring together thousands of users into a single service provider and create a common technology framework across 20 disparate organizations.

It’s one in a long list of major information technology modernization projects the Defense Department plans to complete over the next several years. But the one thing both DoD and its contractors know: Deploying at speed with innovation in a flexible approach will be the key to success.

By applying the lessons learned of past modernization projects, such as trying to create a one-size-fits-all approach, the Pentagon must put the needs of service members and civilians first and ensure consistent communications.

Chad Buechel, vice president and division manager for Defense Enclave Services at Leidos, said the goal is to understand and balance the unique needs of the end users while continuing to maintain services — and also develop a DES modernization roadmap.

To do that, Leidos has been working closely with the Defense Information Systems Agency on the roadmap. DoD awarded Leidos the $11.5 billion DES contract in March 2022 to consolidate and modernize 35 help desks, 30 networks and 2,500 data centers across 20 agencies.

“We’ve been performing work since July of last year, so we’ve had strong program performance thus far in terms of really getting in there, working with the customer, maintaining the operational environment and really starting to work with DISA to build that transformational roadmap and what that looks like moving forward,” Buechel said during Federal News Network’s DoD Cloud Exchange 2023. “We’re partnering very closely with DISA and really building out that journey. But the first six months really focused on operational performance, really getting to understand the baseline and then starting to drive some of those improvements.”

While the first nine months of DES has been doing what Buechel called “basic blocking and tackling,” the second year of the effort will bring in automation and innovation using the cloud to drive change.

“The team will identify what are those manual processes, what are the things we’re thinking about right now that are taking up time that we can do some scripting or some automating to relieve the manual processes,” he said. “Then we can start thinking about the bigger picture engineering efforts that we want to do to start accomplishing our overarching goals.”

Advanced cyber tools become more available

Those goals revolve around giving Fourth Estate agencies the ability to deploy modern technologies and innovate on their current and future capabilities at the speed of need.

Buechel said DES also must ensure warfighters have continuous support without any degradation of services.

“We are also trying to ensure that the user experience continues to be what it needs to be to support the end users,” he said.

But at the same time, DES will be migrating more services to the cloud. “We’re moving away from your traditional on-premise solutions, and we’re starting to do more and more in the cloud,” Buechel said. “What that offers us is the ability to rapidly deploy and innovate more of our cybersecurity tooling and the ability to do more analyzation and rapid data visualization of what’s going on — to manage and protect that data that we have up there.”

Leaning on software factories for innovation

At the same time, Buechel said the DES team must account for some inherent risks that come in using the cloud and lean on artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to protect data and networks.

The use of advanced data encryption, coupled with the resiliency of cloud services, will give DoD a powerful advantage to ensure warfighters are able to access data and tools when they need them, he said.

“We are continuing to drive innovation through a continuous process improvement effort. We know that what we did a year ago isn’t necessarily what we’re going to do now and how we’re going to move forward,” Buechel said. “DevSecOps is a great example for how we are going to work through an agile methodology.”

One major piece of the development, security and operations effort is the use of a software factory to help drive innovation.

Leidos has invested in creating these centers of excellence to support DES and other programs across DoD. The factories are especially important as the department moves toward a zero trust architecture, Buechel said.

“We are looking at how we can rapidly invest in those tools from a research and development standpoint to deploy and use those on our programs. How do we use some of that artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate many of the processes that we’re doing? So really looking at that,” he said. “Then with the cloud, how do we do that in a way that gets us rapidly migrating some of our on-premise programs into the cloud? And then being able to leverage that across the board to drive some of the initial enhancements and efficiencies we’re trying to achieve.”

To read or watch other sessions on demand, go to our 2023 DoD Cloud Exchange event page.

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