Smart Enterprise Magazine

Volume 7, Number 3, 2013

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Got an IT Challenge? Send in the Marines Brigadier General Kevin Nally, CIO of the U.S. Marine Corps, innovates on both the organizational and technology fronts. T he U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) may not be a typical government agency. Its 200,000 active Marines and 40,000 reservists must be constantly ready to respond rapidly to military crisis. Yet the USMC faces many of the same IT challenges as do other government entities. It too grapples with cost restraints and a laborious, bureaucratic acquisitions process that insiders say can be maddeningly frustrating. To improve, the USMC is making efforts to cut the IT fat wherever possible. Brigadier General Kevin Nally, CIO of the USMC, has formed an IT steering group that meets twice a year. "I've gotten approval and authority from the three and four stars that at the next one we have in September, we're going to map out all the programs," he says. "If a program doesn't align [with Marine Corps goals], then we're going to make a recommendation to get rid of it." Of course, that doesn't mean IT at the Marine Corps is standing still. In fact, the USMC is moving rapidly on several cyber-fronts, including cloud computing, mobility and a virtual environment that Nally calls the "office of the future." This future concept will take advantage of both cloud and mobile technology and allow Marines to take their technology wherever they are in the world and access whatever data and apps they need. Cost-Saving Clouds Cloud services are high on Nally's list of priorities. Last year, the USMC launched a private cloud known as the Marine Corps Enterprise IT Services (MCEITS) in Kansas City, Mo. Among other things, MCEITS consolidated several applications and systems that were located at various sites around the country. To date, this private cloud hosts 18 key applications for the Marines, including email, Web services, collaboration programs, training and education programs, manpower programs and financial applications. More are planned for migration in the future. What's more, MCEITS will save the USMC approximately $29 million per year over the cost of using a commercial public cloud or a more traditional data center, Nally estimates. "That's a lot of money for us," he adds. In addition, the USMC plans to replicate some applications on MCEITS that are now hosted at any of eight Marine Air-Ground Task Force IT Support Centers located in the U.S., Okinawa and Europe. Moving these systems to a distributed environment will mean users in Marine support centers, ships and overseas bases can gain access more easily and with greater security. CIO Nally says a new private cloud could save the Marines $29 million annually — "a lot of money for us," he adds. Another key IT effort involves the adoption of mobile devices. The USMC recently launched a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) pilot program involving some 20 devices. The goal is to determine which smartphones and tablet devices best meet the needs of Marine Corps users. The BYOD pilot is set to run through August 2014. As part of the test of BYOD — or, as Nally prefers to call it, "trusted handhelds" — the Marines are working with all the major telecom companies. They know that all approved devices will need to include special security components that separate the devices' personal and organizational data — not surprising, given the Marines' classified work. The USMC has briefed both other U.S. military services and several intelligence agencies about the trusted-device program. "Here in the DoD CIO office, we all share whatever we are doing," Nally says, "as well as what we learn and the mistakes we've made." Collaboration is another major goal. What the Marines are calling the "office of the future" will enable a virtual environment that provides anywhere, anytime access and communication. This would let a Marine officer seamlessly use the same device to work from home, an office in the Pentagon, a plane or car — or practically anywhere else. "What we're working toward," Nally says, "is the concept that work is not where you go, but what you do." —B.V. 2013 • SMART ENTERPRISE 27

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