Pentagon, allies working toward common IT systems

The Defense Department is working with U.S. allies to join common commercial IT platforms with common systems and common standards to gain a warfaring advantage in cyberspace, DOD CIO Terry Halvorsen said Thursday.   

Halvorsen believes that within the next three to five years the U.S. and many of its allies — particularly those in Europe and in the “Five Eyes,” a signals intelligence alliance comprised of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States — will reach those IT commonalities “across the board, for everything from cloud to office systems to data center structure.”

“If we can get there, that gives us an unbelievable warfare advantage,” Halvorsen said at AFCEA’s Defensive Cyber Operations Symposium. “It also gives us an unbelievable business opportunity to better embrace commercial, bring the advantages that commercial can to the war business, bring what we do well in the war business to the commercial sector, and everybody wins.” 

The UK’s Ministry of Defence announced last year its plans to move to Microsoft’s Azure cloud, and the DOD CIO hinted Thursday at doing the same. “I think that’s the right way for us to go,” said Halvorsen, who’s been a very strong proponent of Microsoft products, particularly Windows 10, which he has ordered all DOD agencies and services to move to by Jan. 31, 2017. 


In a recent call with reporters, Halvorsen said he’s been pressing allied forces to follow suit in developing a common Windows 10 baseline. “We have an opportunity…to improve the way we can all communicate because we’ll all be on a standard baseline,” he said then.

Halvorsen’s speech came just days after he traveled to an event in Germany with “lots of our allied European countries there,” he said, adding that there was plenty of evidence that “we’re all at least at the DOD-equivalent-level looking at similar solutions.”

“If we get that right, it gives us the ability to share, on a routine basis, data that we need to between the allies, but maybe most importantly when I need to quickly stand up networks and exchange data instantaneously at tremendously low cost,” he said.

Indeed, it goes well beyond better communication between allies. “We need to be able to move data with them, we need to be able to hook ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] up to them, and we need to do that in such a way that everybody’s data that needs to be separate and protected is protected, but all the people who need to see it instantaneously can see it when they need to,” Halvorsen said.

“That is a major, major problem,” he said. “It is the panacea of what we want in the end.”


While the DOD continually makes efforts to embrace Silicon Valley innovation, Halvorsen pointed to the move to allied common systems as another opportunity to invest in innovation outside of California’s Bay Area. Yes, Silicon Valley is a geographic region with a lot of capital investment to back it, Halvorsen said, but he thinks of it more as a state of mind that can happen anywhere with the right backing.

With that in mind, Halvorsen said the DOD invested alongside the UK MOD in London-based software startup Improbable, a modeling and simulation company that uses big data to build simulated worlds, and he thinks it could be applicable to the battlefield and defense.

“I think it will be a major game changer in how we look at modeling and sim and the results that we produce,” he said.

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