Defence CTO slams department ICT policy

IT wastage detrimental to department productivity and defence capability

Department of Defence Chief CTO Matt Yannopoulous

Department of Defence Chief CTO Matt Yannopoulous

The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the Australia Department of Defence has slammed its ICT policy as not best practise.

Speaking at the Australian Computer Society 2010 Canberra conference, CTO Matt Yannopoulous detailed the department's various failures to consolidate ICT and re-stated the department's commitment to following the strategic imperatives outlined in the Defence Information and Communications Technology Strategy report released last year.

"We have to coordinate," he said. "We have a lot of end-user computing gear, a lot of servers that are in various states of under-utilisation, a lot of rooms with those servers and a lot of rooms with lots of people with keys to those rooms. It's quite difficult to control and provide the right sort of support for that."

Though the third largest telecommunications network in Australia, Yannopoulous said the department wasted its IT. For example, Yannopoulous pointed to one office which has a printer for every five people.

"We are not best practice in how we run IT. If you see the way our military people and our corporate people have to work, it is very obvious why we need a plan and why we need an architecture,” he said.

"We're spending $1.4 billion a year. It would be good if we could start to direct that in a way that would get the right value out of it.

"There is a desk [in one office] there that has seven computers on it, five monitors and four telephones. It's secure; the information cannot be passed between any of those things. The poor person who has to operate it, though, imagine the complexity they're dealing with in all of the information coming together."

To further the example, Yannopoulous said every Department of Defence desk in the Canberra region has at least two computers on their desk: a restricted computer and a “secret computer”.

"We expect the humans to do the integration, we've got to move away from that. We've go to present the different information domains - because they are there for very good security reasons - to get it back to one interface," he said.

"In the Middle East, we're trying to ask people not to pass information. They all sit in the same tent, and there's multiple terminals in there, and they can't actually share emails, they can't share websites because they're not linked to each other. It's a major, major problem.”

"The bad guys in Afghanistan are using iPhones and applications and multiple SIM cards and are going much faster than we are," he added.

The lack of enterprise-like processes are also a key issue for Yannopoulous. He said that the Department of Defence's "broken backbone" was also the lack of governing business processes in place, leading to several failures in responding to issues within the department.

The Defence of Department has attempted to form an overarching ICT policy several times over previous years. The Defence Management Review, commissioned in 2006 and issued in 2007, recommended Defence develop an enterprise-wide ICT strategy.

The department also maintained contact with Sir Peter Gershon while the British efficiency expert wrote the Gershon Review, and has admitted to using the same template and methodology.

In 2009, Minister for Defence Senator John Faulkner announced the Defence Information and Communications Technology Strategy 2009, which outlined four strategic imperatives for the department to following in consolidating and mandating ICT reform.

These are optimising the value of ICT investment through greater communication and prioritisation, closer stakeholder engagement outside of the department's corporate network, developing a department-wide ICT Operating Model and Enterprise Architecture, and strengthening ICT capabilities through increased attempts to hire more IT professionals.

The strategy aimed to form "clear lines of accountability and transparent management responsibilities at the most senior levels, as well as investing in critically under-funded capabilities to improve its ICT infrastructure."

Yannopoulous echoed these imperatives at the ACS 2010 Canberra conference. He said that the Department of Defence Chief Information Officer Greg Farr "only currently controls about half of the overall IT spend" - or $700 million.

Yannopoulous also said the ICT department planned to engage with all Defence stakeholders in ICT consolidation.

"The IT group in Defence is traditionally only worried about our corporate systems and our fixed network. We are now extending to our intelligence side, in particular our war-fighting or military side. Our goal in defence ICT is to engage all stakeholders regardless of the service that they come from or the core that they are a part of," he said.

The disparate environments and user interface were also an issue for the military. Yannopolous said that IT staff planned to consolidate existing IT architecture and user interfaces, while incorporating new types of technology users into the network.

"The key enabler in getting control over our disparate environments is the adoption of adherence to this Enterprise Architecture,” he said.

"While we have 90,000 odd desktops, we have 10,000 odd trucks. In the future, trucks want screens in them where they can get situational awareness data, terrain and messages. They want to be a node on our network."

Thin clients are a continuing option, Yannopoulous said, but the department was still looking to see whether a cloud-based infrastructure was right for the department.

"If a cloud is infrastructure-as-a-service where people don't know what brand of servers I'm buying, what brand of storage I'm buying, and it provides the flexibility to have multiple operating systems and virtualise the hardware, yes that's possible.

"It won’t be Internet-facing because, while I'm ambitious, I'm not completely silly."

The department will strengthen ICT capabilities by hiring more professionals.

"We are looking for lots of different ways to try and build up the ICT workforce. Whilst we have more than a couple of thousand people, we have a remarkably small number of people who are actually IT professionals, and that is something we are seeking to address over the coming period."

Yannopolous said that he had met with a representative of the Australian Computer Society, and had expressed interested in embedding the society's Professional Partner Program within the department's recruitment schemes.

"It is the first ICT strategy for Defence," he said. "It sets out how we're structured, how we're trying to meet the challenge of getting a hold of and managing of all of the IT in our broad organisation.

"The need for change has been articulated in the last 24 months. We have strategic reform programs that were fortuitiously signed off by the Government yesterday, so we can now start talking quite publicly about what our implementation plan looks like. And that reform plan provides the $20 billion we need over the next 10 years to pay for the Defence Capability Plan and reinvest in the Australian Defence Organisation.

"I'm assuming that the organisation is willing to do things differently, that they're actually willing to reorganise themselves, and lose the view that the human is the person that integrates with the process."

The ICT strategy is expected to require an investment of $940 million over four years, but will save the Department of Defence $1.9 billion over the next three to five years, and roughly $250 million every following year.

The ICT strategy is part of the wider Department of Defence's Strategic Reform Program, which will see a full reform of the department and a heavier military force by 2030. The overarching goals of the department were outlined in the Defence White Paper 2009.

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Tags Gershon Reportdepartment of defenceaustralian computer societydefence information and communications technology strategy 2009Greg FarrMatt Yannopoulous

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