What does the Joint Information Environment Mean for COTS Vendors?

by Tim Larkins, Consultant

It seems every conference or event I turn to lately, Department of Defense officials are touting the Joint Information Environment (JIE).  You can’t show up at an AFCEA luncheon without overhearing someone talking about Rear Admiral Simpson and the policies he’s setting at DISA to ensure a common operating environment across the military.  At the Defense Systems Cybersecurity Summit this week, General Bowman from the J-6 reiterated the importance of building a standards-based architecture that allows each service branch to securely utilize each others’ data centers. The good news is (or at least the news we want to hear is) that in order to realize the JIE, investment in COTS software will be a requirement.  But the bad news? We’ve heard this same rhetoric over and over through the past 10 years, and have seen little progress toward the stated end goal.  It is important to bear in mind that the JIE is not a network.  It is not a system.  Rather, it is a framework, or a construct that will (or at least should) allow DOD components to share enterprise services and infrastructures to increase efficiency.  Also, the JIE is not a program of record, so it does not receive any funding directly from any component of DOD.  Thus, I wonder:  How are we to expect any more progress from the JIE initiative than from 2004’s System of Systems Interoperability project?  How are we to believe that the problems all of the COCOMs have been complaining about for a decade will disappear in the near future because of some guidance and policy coming from DISA, the J-6, and USCYBERCOM?  General  Alexander himself has recognized that USCYBERCOM still lacks a clear picture on its role in defending networks nation-wide.  True, General Alexander has begun the process of establishing cyber support elements within each of the six geographic COCOMs, but this progress is not a definitive sign that service men and women will be able to plug and play regardless of the COCOM environment they’re operating in.  I will admit that I feel some excitement when I consider the potential solutions and cost savings that the JIE will offer (not to mention the business opportunities for our clients).  But the realist in me says not to get caught up in the hype, and to steer our efforts toward a more tangible path… towards the programs of record that continue to receive funding.  As sales people, we need to remain cautiously optimistic about the potential that the JIE holds, and jump on it when the time is right.  But at present, we really need to stick with what works.

About Tim Larkins
Tim Larkins is Manager of immixGroup's Market Intelligence Team. He has 9 years of experience in business development, management, consulting, and market intelligence helping clients with budget analysis, market trends, and opportunity identification. Tim received a Bachelor's Degree from Furman University and an MBA from Benedictine University.

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