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The Joint Information Environment is a sweeping effort to realign military networks and IT.
The Joint Information Environment is a sweeping effort to realign military networks and IT. (DISA)
DISA Director Ronnie Hawkins is helping to lead DoD's JIE efforts. (Mike Morones/Staff)

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Progress is well under way for the Defense Department’s Joint Information Environment, the enterprisewide move to realign and restructure military networks and IT, but the shaping forces behind it continue to evolve as the effort moves forward.

The Defense Information Systems Agency is helping to lead DoD’s transition, and the agency director said there are four critical “pressure points” DISA faces amid the transition: growing demand for technology and services, increasing complexity of networks and adversaries, budgetary challenges across DoD, and the global nature of threats today.

Those pressure points occur against a backdrop of planning for future risks, engagements, requirements and workforce, according to Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins, DISA director. That future also centers on a rapidly changing cyber landscape.

“We want to make sure we do not build out an environment from the last war that we fought, or from what one particular service or agency wants to do,” Hawkins said. “As we start to look at the cyber threats we have right now... it has changed exponentially such that we need to look at cyber in a different way.”

Taking a different view means a wide range of changing perspectives – whether it’s retooling how military applications are managed, targeting the defendability of networks, building out mobility as DoD focuses on the Asia Pacific or, perhaps most significantly, changing the way the IT workforce is trained and evaluated.

“Nothing gets done without our workforce, so we want to posture our workforce for the changing digital IT environment that is out there,” Hawkins said. “The Internet of Things and where it is that we’re exploiting the digital environment, [those things are] important to us, so we need to make sure that we’re training our workforce that way. And most importantly we need to bring in the right training programs to be able to function in the future as well as where we’re at right now – and not necessarily build the training programs of the past.”

As for where JIE currently stands, DISA is taking a “regionalized” approach to its rollout. So far JIE capabilities are available in Europe and U.S. Africa Command, according to Brig. Gen. Brian Dravis, director of DISA’s JIE Technical Synchronization Office.

Officials are hesitant to define JIE’s specific timetables, but it is safe to say transitioning all of DoD to JIE will take some time.

“I personally would like to see a global end date that satisfies that initial operating set of capabilities that define a mobile JIE, but because we’re taking a regionalized approach through something that is not a program of record but a DoD initiative, I think it’s fair to target the 2020 timeframe to look at having enough requirements satisfied that we can say we’ve met some minimum thresholds to declare victory, if you will, on the JIE,” Dravis said.

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