Bridging the Gap between Mission Goals and Technology
by Glenn Smith, on Oct 24, 2016 7:55:24 AM
Cliff Flowers is a military veteran with nearly two decades of experience working with the Department of Defense. At Lockheed Martin, he served as the Program Manager for the Air Force space situational awareness mission and the Missile Defense Agency's command and control mission. At GTRI, Cliff brings his expertise to bear as Director of Federal Service Sales where he continues to work with agencies and other government organizations to deliver comprehensive and cost-effective technology solutions.
Below, Cliff shares his thoughts on the unique technology challenges faced by government organizations and how the right strategic consulting partner can help.
Q: You’ve worked with the military and the Department of Defense (DoD) for many years. What are some of the challenges these organizations face when it comes to bridging the gap between technology and mission goals?
A: The DoD is continuously challenged, not only by consistent pressure to decrease government spending, but also by rigorous testing requirements that result in extended deployment timelines for critical mission systems. On a regular basis, mission systems are operationally accepted with Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) and hardware baselines that may already be End of Life or End of Support – starting a cycle of being “behind” from a technology, logistical, and security standpoint.
In addition, DoD mission systems are held to strict security standards that require approval from Designated Approval Authorities before a system can connect to a mission network. This additional rigor can add schedule risk for system integrators as they work to add mission capability into established mission baselines. This means that solutions that we provide to DoD customers in a budget-constrained environment must minimize their deployment risks and increase, or at least maintain, their existing security posture.
Q: How have you and your team worked to overcome these challenges?
A: IT solutions are evolving so rapidly that mission systems that take 12 months to put on contract and 18-24 months to deliver are being deployed and operationally accepted up to 36 months after the requirement finalized. One way to overcome an overall reluctance to take on a perceived risk with new technology and to ensure technical refreshes are imminent is to keep two teams in constant motion. The first team focuses on development with a defined handoff to the second team, the sustainment team. In some cases we’ve gone to an Agile development environment to ensure a more rapid delivery.
Q: What technology services are changing the way Federal organizations work?
A: There are actually two different answers to this question. From an unclassified perspective, mobile technology and hybrid IT solutions are becoming more and more common among Federal organizations. Many agencies are geographically separated and require more mobility, pushing mobile and cloud-based solutions to the forefront.
From a classified, mission system perspective, there is an increased focus on cyber solutions, specifically, those that allow more dynamic patching and monitoring across global, classified networks. As government networks expand globally, the need to not only monitor, but be able to deploy security patches across those networks becomes increasingly important.
Q: What technologies do you think could benefit government organizations that haven’t been widely utilized (or that government organizations are reluctant to use because they don’t understand the benefits vs. risks)?
There is a real fear of cloud-based solutions, specifically on the classified or mission system programs. In my experience, the risk of data leaks/spills has been perceived as so great that many decision makers and/or acquisition agencies have chosen to keep data locally, which contributes to the challenges of continual technical refreshes for mission systems. It’s our job to work to overcome these perceptions and unfounded fears. Often, cloud-based solutions can actually be more secure and provide the customer better insight into who is accessing data on their systems.
Q: What should government organizations look for in a strategic technology consulting partner?
This is dependent on the customer and organization. As an IT consulting firm with commercial and federal expertise in both products and services, GTRI is uniquely positioned to be able to manage our partnership focus to fit the particular need of our customers. In some cases, I’ve found that some of our prime contractors are looking for a trusted advisor, while others in a staffing crisis are looking for specific expertise to fit their program’s needs. GTRI’s strength lies in our ability to provide solutions to our customers that fit THEIR needs and solve THEIR problems.
Cliff Flowers is Director of Federal Service Sales for GTRI.