DoD takes West Coast IT tour with major allies

The Defense Department is going on a summer road trip with its allies to check up on some of the biggest topics in IT.

DoD Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen, along with other DoD officials, landed on the West Coast yesterday to meet with IT firms in Seattle and Silicon Valley.

In tow are CIOs from some of the United States’ closes allies, such as Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and...

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The Defense Department is going on a summer road trip with its allies to check up on some of the biggest topics in IT.

DoD Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen, along with other DoD officials, landed on the West Coast yesterday to meet with IT firms in Seattle and Silicon Valley.

In tow are CIOs from some of the United States’ closes allies, such as Canada, Australia, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and NATO.

This is the DoD CIO’s sixth time making the trip, but the first time for Japan, Germany and NATO.

“All of those [allies] are of a scale that they have the exact same problems we do,” Halvorsen said in a July 15 meeting with reporters. “Part of the problem that we all share is how do we share and do coalition communications and allied communications. It’s important that we spend some time together to work that issue. While it’s important that we are making the visits to the companies, frankly, it’s just as important that this group is together spending some time to think about our shared problems and shared space.”

During the five-day trip, Halvorsen and the allied leaders will meet with large established companies, such as Microsoft, Oracle and Amazon, to discuss topics like identity management, data sharing and innovation.

Halvorsen said DoD is going into the talks with a certain set of capabilities in mind.

“As we go to visit the companies that we are already doing business with … we’re looking at what are those companies doing that might benefit us in the future, how are they maturing their products,” Halvorsen said. “At Microsoft, we are certainly going to talk about what they see as the vision of cloud computing we’re all interested in cloud computing. Microsoft is doing 365 cloud, it’s doing well in the Fortune 100, so we want to know about that.”

He added at Amazon DoD will want to discuss the modernization of its cloud.

“What we’ve asked [the companies] to do is ‘Can you concentrate on things that would benefit this entire group?'” Halvorsen said.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Doesn’t DoD already have a tech initiative out on the West Coast called the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx)?”

The answer is yes. If you don’t know about DIUx, it’s DoD’s way of reaching out to new innovative tech companies that don’t traditionally do business with the Pentagon.

Halvorsen said his trip has a different purpose.

Instead of going out to find new companies to cultivate innovation for DoD, Halvorsen’s trip is focusing mostly on established tech companies. The trip will also focus on bettering technologies that are already being used in DoD and the allied countries like communications and cloud services.

“What we are really focused on, and I think that’s the right thing, is where are we spending out money today? I don’t think it would be surprising if you look at the companies I’m spending time with … they’re companies that I spend money with today and I want to know what are they doing to keep us relevant?  How are they staying on top of their game?” Halvorsen.

DoD and its allies will be meeting with top officials in the companies and their staffs. Halvorsen said the meetings are not PowerPoints or sales pitches, but frank discussions.

Halvorsen said that all but maybe one of the companies has a headquarters in Washington. The difference for this trip is there is no middleman DoD and its allies have to go through for information. Most of the top company officials live on the West Coast. DoD will be able to find out all the specifics on technologies and plans it wants right away.

One solution Halvorsen wants to see from the companies is how DoD can fully implement the cloud, a goal the department has been phasing in. Halvorsen said DoD will probably be announcing its pathway to cloud.

These companies could also provide an alternative to the Common Access Card. Halvorsen put an ambitious two-year timeline on replacing it. He said he’d like to see something that is a mix of biometrics and behavior. Halvorsen said the technology he saw from the companies in previous years led him to make the decision to move away from the CAC card.

“CAC card is not where we want to be a couple of years with security, we need to go beyond that,” Havlorsen said. “It’s very secure right now, but looking forward it’s also very expensive to maintain. You’ve got to maintain who whole set up for issuing the CAC cards in lots of environments. But one of the other reasons is none of the allies use it. … I think the technology in this case is going to push us to a much better level of security.”

That isn’t to say Halvorsen won’t be looking for new technologies. On Wednesday, DIUx will meet up with DoD, its allies and a handful of new, innovative tech companies.

The purpose is to help U.S. allies understand what DoD’s need might be.

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