Defence Force overhauls IT for centralised approach

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) is midway through a complete overhaul of its information environment following the endorsement of a centralised enterprise architecture framework.

Before this move, the ADF had no enterprise-wide focus on IT, a deficiency identified in the 1997 Defence Efficiency Review; each of the groups (Army, Navy and Air Force) had its own approach and built and maintained its own network.

This decentralised, organisational control of the IT infrastructure stems from a defence culture that is "highly resistant" to centralised organisational control.

Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Burns, director of the Defence Information Environment Architectures Office (DIEAO) said taking this culture into account, the Defence Information Environment (DIE) was designed to complement "devolved responsibilities", whilst still encouraging initiative at all levels.

The various IT networks throughout the group support radar networks, military satellite communication systems and the desktop infrastructure (to name just a few), and are vital in ensuring the organisation fulfils its defence and peacekeeping roles.

The DIE architecture initiative was established last year to become the "glue" that brings all ADF operational and business activities into a "single virtual endeavour", spanning "organisational and functional boundaries".

The framework is currently at the stage of "being filled in", with an independent evaluation of the framework and processes scheduled for next year to refine how the ADF is tackling "architecting".

Burns said the first course instructing Defence staff and contractors on the framework will begin in June, with a series of workshops focusing on the components of the framework on the agenda.

"The one thing I am certain about is that we cannot run the Defence enterprise without any architecture, neither can we afford to model it completely - success is finding the correct balance."

The sources of 'inspiration' for the DIE architecture framework include the Meta Group Enterprise Architecture Strategy (EAS) and US Department of Defence's C4ISR Architecture Framework V2.0. Using the latter has ensured the ADF remains "interoperable" with the US DoD.

"The framework we have developed is unique. We looked at many of the leading military and commercial approaches but none clearly and succinctly covered all the pieces we believe are important."

The framework specifies all aspect of the "information flows" and "information services into, around and from Defence in a holistic way". This includes the intranet, extranets with allies and suppliers, and the Internet.

"Like many organisations, much of this knowledge [how Defence operates] is either in people's heads or in the vast collection of documents, manuals and databases throughout the department," Burns said.

"The trouble is that without an enterprise architecture, there is no simple way to see and share where it all fits together, where the gaps and overlaps are and how the organisation should evolve."

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