By William New
February 25, 2002The Defense Department is seeking to return to its Reagan-era budgetary might, but the spending of the future will look different. While the department still will build big ships and airplanes, top Defense officials are pushing a "transformation" of the military toward more efficient internal systems and weapons driven by information technology. Such a transformation spells opportunity for the nation's IT sector, which is looking for ways to contribute to the nation's security and for products to help it recover economically, industry sources say. "What we're seeing is a whole array of companies stepping forward with technology solutions," said David Colton, vice president for strategic initiatives at the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). "Companies are looking at both homeland defense and the Department of Defense as opportunities. Since Sept. 11, the tempo has picked up."
Ripe IT Harvest
A strong emphasis is being placed on the interoperability of technology systems. Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, the director of force structure, resources and assessment, said at a conference last week that a $600 million charge was required in fiscal 2002 to get a previously purchased system to "talk" with others. Aldridge said interoperability "has to be checked off now as a criterion."
Another area of focus is reducing the cycle times for developing and deploying defense technology. "When our acquisition cycle is several times greater than industry's, there is something wrong," Cebrowski said last week.
Heinemeier cited several defense-related growth areas for the IT industry in the post-Sept. 11 environment. One is information assurance, or providing security to the military services for the obtaining and transmitting of information. Another is biometrics, which allows testing, for example, for certain substances in the air or water.
Intrusion-detection systems present another opportunity. The services are becoming more aggressive in protecting critical infrastructure so that it is available to war-fighters and not hacked, Heinemeier said.
An example of a new information system is the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, a secure global intranet for internal communications that is wholly outsourced to EDS to act as the systems integrator. Other services are looking at the concept, which was funded by Congress and mostly is expected to be online by June 2003. "Information assurance and protecting the intranet are all aspects of transforming the military to allow it to be more Internet-enabled," Heinemeier said.
A GEIA five-year forecast of the information assurance market for Defense, civil agencies and the commercial sector showed growth from $17.6 billion in 2001 to $61.8 billion in 2006. Ninety percent is from the commercial sector, but GEIA predicted that the government sector's share would increase from $2.6 billion to $9.2 billion in 2006.
"We're very encouraged by the increased investment," Heinemeier said. "IT and related systems are going to be way up."
Dogfight of the Future
ITAA also is looking "very carefully" at transformation efforts, according to Colton. In November, the organization launched a series of events on the topic. "We think [transformation's] going to be long term," he said.
"Transformation is not just about weapons platforms, but the unification of what were once isolated components into unified battlefield management," said Colton.
For example, in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, an unmanned plane with an IT link synchronized with a gunship had a sensor that could feed data about the target instantaneously into the gunship. "It was the first time in human warfare there was almost zero delay between the sensor and shooter," Colton said. Some envision the day when unmanned aircraft will fight each other.
"There's no question that we see this as a shotgun opportunity for deployment of new technologies," Colton said. "Since Sept. 11, I think there is a huge desire [in the IT industry] to contribute."
"In a tight budget environment ... force transformation becomes a necessity," he said. "It's our belief that technology is a 'force multiplier' because you will have fewer platforms and they will need to be more lethal, and the way to do that is through 'Net-centric' warfare."
A PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government report on transformation in government procurement, issued this month, found that Defense could save 25 percent in procurement and logistics alone by implementing industry best practices and new technologies.
ITI also sees defense opportunities. "We look upon that as a huge market for us," Dawson said. "It's a natural market for us [because the military invented the Internet and invested in information technology]. A lot of things we are about today are part of that legacy."
Dawson said that contracts are found in various ways, from taking orders out of a catalogue to helping implement the millions of transactions of the Defense healthcare system. But he and others added that the IT industry is struggling to break in among established defense contractors. "Our companies are spending more time [at the Pentagon]," Dawson said. "[The military] can be a very demanding customer."
Dawson predicted that making Defense operate like a world-class corporation would take 15 to 20 years. "Most corporations don't have to deal with a bunch of shareholders like the Congress," he said.
By William New
February 25, 2002