A veteran speaks: the need for simplicity in DoD IT Modernization
Guest Author: Gus Mendiola is a Cisco Systems Engineering Manager and veteran. He currently leads a team of engineers supporting the United States Army in CONUS, SWA, and Europe. He retired from the U.S. Army in 2013, after serving as a Platoon Leader, Company Commander, and in other leadership positions in the Signal Corps.
As I look back at my time serving in the U.S. Army, I realize how fortunate I was to put into practice so much of the training I received there.
After the “Basic” Course I got to be a signal platoon leader, and after the “Career” course I got to be on staff and command a signal company. I’m probably dating myself here, but even after Combined Arms Services and Staff School (or CAS3, pronounced kas-cubed), I had the pleasure of briefing the Division Chief of Staff on a new radio system we were fielding.
The case for simplifying IT in the DoD
Later in my career, when I compared my experience with my fellow Soldiers, they were not as fortunate. Most were put into jobs that required “OJT” (on the job training) or were told that the folks at their gaining unit would train them up. Of course, the feedback there was always mixed.
In the latter half of my career, I noticed that technical work was often given to contractors. Or on tactical networks, for example, we became very reliant on our Field Service Reps (FSR) to actually make things work. I attributed this change to a few factors: first, the systems had become far too complex and second, the Army schools were not quite equipped to train to the technical depth required. Lastly, that due to the constant rotations there was insufficient time for the incremental and repetitive training required to gain proficiency and confidence.
This reality results in signaleers, who are vital to mission success, failing to get opportunities to practice what they are trained to do, or not getting trained to the level or depth required. And it also reveals the real need for a simpler approach to IT within the DoD, especially as they push forward with modernization.
First steps to simplification
Today, it’s great to see the Army focusing on Network Modernization with a design tenet of simplification. At the same time, our industry is embracing the same concept; simplification as a means to provide our customers a better user experience and save our customers critical OpEx dollars.
Software Defined Networking (SDN) is at the heart of this movement to simplicity. By abstracting complex tasks through well written software, you can scale up the productivity and effectiveness of individuals by applying configuration across the enterprise at once, versus on each device one at a time. Plus, the learning curve is much more manageable for new employees.
IT Modernization through Software Defined Access
As the Army considers its Network Modernization path and analyzes alternatives such as outsourcing enterprise IT, we are encouraging our customers to evaluate the potential capability that a Cisco Software Defined solution may also bring to the discussion. This solution enables the Army to capitalize on their existing investment in equipment while at the same time, enabling them to train, retain, and empower their existing workforce.
The productivity gained through the use of solutions like Software Defined Access and Cisco DNA-Center, will allow the signal community to really focus on their customer’s mission. This new IT delivery paradigm has the potential to simplify life for the signal community and bring it full circle—back to its core competency where Soldiers and civilians can be trained to operate and maintain the network and empowered to take care of their customers.
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