Brig. Gen. Patrick Burden took over as Army Program Executive Officer — Enterprise Information Systems in November 2016, returning to the Fort Belvoir post after two years as deputy PEO for ammunition and senior commander at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey.
Prior to PEO-Ammunition, Brig. Gen. Burden served in the office of the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, and previously worked at PEO-EIS as the project manager for the General Fund Enterprise Business System.
With a broad exposure to a variety of Army systems — IT and otherwise — Burden brings to PEO-EIS experience and perspective from across the Army. He recently sat down with C4ISRNET Editor Amber Corrin to discuss his priorities and vision for PEO-EIS, Army readiness and cyber challenges.
What’s at the top of your mind, and the top of your to-do list, since taking over as PEO-EIS?
Many of the things I want the organization to do and focus on are directly tied to our Army priorities, our No. 1 priority being readiness. I have six things I really want to focus on, in no particular order here.
The first one is about people, taking care of people. I think that’s our most valued resource. There’s no way we can meet our mission and implement and execute our requirements without the force here, whether it’s military or government contractor, stakeholders across the community.
The other thing is I’d like to focus on efficiencies, which enable many of the priorities across the Army, especially readiness. I look to our teams to work across the PEO, to work commonalities and duplication of efforts to ensure we are being as efficient as we can.
Maybe at some point, the aggregate of savings would allow us to ensure that we have the right force structure and could maybe buy another solider, another platoon, another squad, another [brigade combat team] to ensure we’re executing our missions around the world. I think it directly impacts our ability to build ready forces for our Army. We have to be aggressive about cyber defense; it impacts everybody.
Everyone has some type of computing device. I just left PEO-Ammo; we have ammunition that has automation in it, so cyber impacts everyone.
We know we’re standing up another cyber defense mission here to provide cyber tools to soldiers around the battlefield to ensure that we can protect our networks. We have major automated systems that have to continue to assess vulnerabilities on the network, on their systems. I want to make sure that we’re aggressively engaged in cyber defense.
Another thing is really about the, what we call “Big A” acquisition requirements, resources and this defense acquisition system. I want to start on resources. I want to make sure that we develop and have structured resourcing of our projects and programs. It’s hard to execute, build a plan and execute our program if we don’t know what the future funding of those programs are.
Some of my concerns are with this potential sequestration in fiscal 2018, having to execute in a resource-constrained environment, but we do have to ensure that we have defendable programs that have a predictability in our funding programs so we can execute, and plan for the execution, of those programs.
The last thing is really about delivering capabilities. It’s kind of why we’re here as an acquisition entity. Build full sustained systems for our Army core mission. We can’t forget why we’re here.
You mentioned a new cyber defense mission. Are you talking about at EIS or Armywide?
We’re working on crafting the documents for the different requirements associated with the cyber defense mission. There are a number of operational needs statements that have been approved. One is focused on big data platforms, how we’re going to defend those big data platforms, the defensive cyber operations infrastructure, tools for our cyber protection teams and then tools available to address web vulnerabilities.
Those are the four areas that have been given to PEO EIS as missions directly related to cyber threats. We’ll know more as they complete the requirements document on how we will address those requirements, but currently, we have a few operational needs statements and that’s allowing us to kind of structure the programs on how we’re going to deal with those current requirements.
So those will be requirements that you’ll be looking to address in-house at EIS?
We will address them here at EIS and there will be products that we provide to our cyber teams across the Army.
Those products that you’re developing, do you see new program offices springing up from this potentially?
We do. In some cases, the products developed or tools procured; maybe it’s [taking advantage of] tools that are already available. They’re expected to be acquisition category programs that will be formal project offices that will execute these requirements.
I suspect there will be a number of project managers executing the full projects that I mentioned earlier.
This is new for the PEO. Many of the PMs have systems that they’re responsible for managing today that they have to do continuous vulnerability assessments as it relates to attacks or cyber issues. This mission is really about providing tools for the rest of the Army. I think we had more of an internal focus previously, protecting any of the systems that we manage for the Army. Today, it’s going to be somewhat externally focused where we provide tools for the rest of our soldiers to protect their automated systems that they’re currently using in the field.
I’m sure a lot of that external focus will involve new partnerships. Are there any specific partnerships that you’ll be looking to forge in particular?
As a PM here at the PEO EIS, I worked primarily with, as a lieutenant colonel, the logistics community and as a colonel with really the financial management community and somewhat the law community. I didn’t do a lot of work with CIO and the G-6 entity as part of the Army. This job is going to require me to do just that.
I’ve had several conversations with [Army CIO/G-6 Lt. Gen.
Robert Ferrell] already to begin to build the relationships with the CIO/G-6. They play an integral role in the cyber mission, defensive mission, so I’m looking forward to the interaction with the CIO/G-6 and all the other intelligence and signal commands across the Army. They’re stakeholders that will be integral in using any of the products that we’re responsible for.
You mentioned readiness and obviously, that’s a broader Armywide priority. Where do you see the EIS fitting in with the readiness mission, and how you see the EIS carrying that out?
I think every soldier and every civilian does impact our requirement to have ready forces for commanders and joint forces around the world. First of all, all the systems that we have responsibility for either enable our Army to run or it provide capabilities for tactical organizations around the world. For instance, [Global Combat Support System — Army], it’s a tool that’s used at our headquarters and then in Washington, D.C. down the road, and it’s being used by the maintenance officers and the supply officers that are in theater today for the requisition of parts, the maintenance of their vehicles. All of that is directly aligned with our ability to fight and be ready to defend those missions.
Our General Fund Enterprise Business Systems execute all our general funds for our Army. It’s kind of hard to really do anything without resources and this system is the single source of the execution of our funds, supporting the entire Army, directly supporting our ability to resource entities across the Army and to execute missions within the Army. It’s a tie to general fund,, GCSS Army, that’s being used to order supplies on the tactical edge.
Again, a direct impact to our ability to have ready forces executing missions around the world. Almost every system directly impacts our ability to meet our missions around the world. The key thing about this PEO, and I don’t think we do a good job of communicating that to the rest of the Army, is this PEO enables the Army to function. It enables the Army to run with either providing automated systems to all the commands around the world with the [Computer Hardware, Enterprise Software and Solutions] program or providing strategic long-haul communications across oceans with our long-haul communication requirements, or providing line-of-sight communications for our logistics community with many of the satellite communications systems that we field.
What are you excited about?
I am most excited about my return to the team, serving again as a teammate here at PEO EIS and knowing how much we make a difference around the world. I talked about how I see the PEO in the Army, being powered by EIS. We enable the Army to run. I’m very excited about rejoining the team and being a part of the future successes of PEO EIS.