Lieutenant General Steven W. Boutelle has been the Department of the Army Staff’s chief information officer/G6 since 2003.
Previous assignments include director for information operations, networks and space, Office of the Chief Information Officer/G6, Headquarters, Department of the Army from 2001 to 2003; program executive officer for Command, Control and Communications Systems (PEO C3S) from 1997 to 2001; project manager for Field Artillery Tactical Data Systems (FATDS) from 1992 to 1996; and chief of staff for PEO C3S before his assignment as the PEO. From 1996 to 1997, Boutelle was the PEO C3S “Trail Boss” responsible for air defense, intelligence, artillery, logistics, maneuver, satellite and tactical radio software and systems integration for the Army’s Task Force XXI.
During a military career of more than three decades, Boutelle’s assignments have also included serving as commander, 362nd Signal Company, Korea; Army Europe deputy chief of staff of Operations and Plans; and chief, Test and Evaluation and executive officer for the Command System Integration Agency. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Puget Sound and a master’s of business administration from Marymount University. His awards include the Defense Service Medal, Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Meritorious Service Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters.
Boutelle was interviewed by MIT Editor Harrison Donnelly.
Q: What do you see as the key factors influencing the current development of military information technology?
A: I think we’re in for a period of declining budgets in information technologies. Every dollar we have spent over the past several years, in transforming our tactical, institutional and business bases, we will have to live with for a long time. Historically, there has been economic rebalancing. Any time a budget goes up, that budget eventually goes down.
Many of our systems are now in a period of commoditization. Transport, for example—and we’ve spent a lot of effort over the past few years on transport—and Mr. John Stenbit’s [former assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence] concept of “power to the edge,” has been realized in the Teleports and the Transformation Communications Satellite [TSAT] systems. We’ve had some great success in those systems and in the transport area. Another part of Mr. Stenbit’s portfolio was the fiber optic cable Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion [GIGBE]. The Defense Information Systems Agency [DISA] has done a wonderful job on GIG-BE and now it’s incorporated into the Defense Information Systems Network [DISN] Core. The transport gives us a global backbone of fiber.
The Teleport program involved converting seven of our Standardized/StrategicTactical Entry Points [STEP] sites and building them into Teleports over a period of generations. The Teleport program took some of the existing STEP sites, which by definition primarily only accessed military satellites, and converted them to both military and commercial satellite access points. We added commercial capabilities to allow us access to commercial vendors’ transponders, enabling cross-banding (to go up via a commercial satellite and come down, cross-banded to a military satellite). It gives us more access wherever we are globally.
We have converged across all services on the Internet Protocol [IP] standard. We, as a joint community, decided that it makes sense to be standards based—not standardization, but standards. Everyone does not have to have the same device. The decision to make IP a standard, although not the most efficient protocol, allowed us to quickly grow the transport network globally, from the fiber infrastructure, to the existing DISN, to the Teleports and into the commercial and military satellite worlds.
Q: What are you doing to leverage commercial technology?
A: That’s happening very quickly, our networks are being commoditized, because we’re following and leveraging the commercial sector. It’s important that we understand that we no longer drive the market. We leverage what the commercial sector does and bring that into the GIG, the Teleports or the tactical battlefield. We’re able to leverage the great investment that the commercial sector makes in IP. Great partners help us do that. As we’ve done with the GIG, DISN and Teleports, we’ve extended the “edge” lower and lower. John Stenbit said, “Power to the edge,” and we’re now pushing that edge lower and lower on the battlefield.
Previously, with Mobile Subscriber Equipment, the edge was at the brigade. We provided limited bandwidth down to the brigade headquarters. That same bandwidth, now “IP-based,” is extended down to the maneuver battalion HQs, and in some cases, the company and individual platforms—tanks, Bradleys and sensors. A division in Southwest Asia today probably has close to 500 megabits, or almost half a gigabit. That’s a tremendous amount of bandwidth, and it’s Everything Over IP [EOIP]. That’s where we’re moving, and it gives us tremendous efficiencies, allowing us to do things we’ve never been able to do before, such as converge voice, data and video. You’ll be able to have voice, video and data commingled on the same data stream and unclassified, secret and top secret commingled.
We’re finally reaching where we aimed to go. A lot of things came together. First, the transport came together, and then the standards. The commercial sector helped us with commercial satellite-based solutions. The Army’s initial solution was the Joint Network Nodes and the Command Post Nodes. These commercial systems, with data packages, allowed us to push voice, data and video to the lowest level. This was based on the successes of the Special Operations Command [SOCOM] and the Joint Communications Support Element [JCSE]. So we’ve seen transport commoditized.
When I say commoditized, I mean that those products were very expensive when they first came to market about five years ago. Now they’re a commodity, and honestly I don’t care if a router is made by one company or another, only that they’re based on standards. I’m after the one that is the best, most efficient, lightest, takes the least amount of power and has the best environmental capabilities. We are in a commoditized information technology world.
Q: You’ve mentioned the transport level, but what about the application and data levels?
A: The transport level is a commodity, and the edge is being pushed lower and lower, and the bandwidth will continue to increase at the lowest level—that’s step one. The next step is the applications and data level. That’s more difficult and onerous. It’s one thing to have bandwidth down to the lowest level. But which applications are you going to use? Microsoft Office is a family of applications, which were not necessarily built to operate on an environment that is as mobile as our environment. We routinely get connected and disconnected on the battlefield. So our industry partners designed special applications for that.
In those unique applications, we had to define the data elements and data standards. To do that, we needed a data strategy, an Army and joint data strategy as to how those applications will talk to one another. This was not an issue until the transport came together— when we started tying together an application that a soldier has in one company to another application in another battalion, brigade or other service. When the transport matured to where those applications could touch and talk to one another, it required defining data elements, standards and symbology to make sure that one level could talk to another. That’s a process that all the services, DISA, and the Joint Staff have to address. They’re doing a good job addressing it, based on standards, but they haven’t solved it. It’s a time-consuming and very resource-intensive process.
As we’ve commoditized the network and driven those prices down, we need to be focusing our resources on the standardization of data elements, and how we’re going to do that with eXtensible Markup Language [XML], Simple Object Access Protocol [SOAP], Universal Description, Discovery and Integration [UDDI], Web Services Description Language [WSDL] and so on. Now we are at the next level, defining those data elements and symbologies. DISA has done a great job of defining many elements and getting them out to the services to use. Now we have to take it to the next level, and start talking about data.
Q: Why are standards important?
A: So we’re working through transport, applications, data and standards. It’s like, in the 19th century, when the U.S. decided that our electricity needed a standard. We started out with Direct Current [DC]—it wasn’t Alternating Current [AC]. New York was first lit by DC, which Edison thought to be the answer. It wasn’t until a few years later, that Westinghouse convinced the community that DC was not the answer. Westinghouse proved you could push AC for much larger distances with high voltages. So we agreed upon 120 volt/60 cycle AC as a standard for local use. When that happened, you saw mass proliferation of electricity across the U.S.
That’s about where we are with EOIP. We’ve agreed upon IP, and are seeing it pushed across the battlefield and across the services, just like electricity was pushed across the U.S. But back then, we had to invest in high-power transport lines, and power lines to the edge or to every house and factory. Once you have those power lines to houses and factories, the next investment is the application—a light-bulb, a toaster, a radio or an electric motor in a factory. That’s the step that we’re at now in network-centric warfare, with the network as the enabler for the warfighter. We have to invest in what plugs into the network. That’s the investment we’ve been making in the network. In our case, it’s the application. The application may be on a weapons system, or an intelligence database, or a decision support system for the logistician. That’s where we need to refocus our attention now.
Q: What role will commercial and military satellites play?
A: We’ll reach from the continental U.S. though the DISN Core, the STEP sites and Teleports, and commercial and military satellite systems. We hope to use more military systems as they mature, and we expect the maturation process over the next five years to include the Wideband Gapfiller Satellite, which will give us large amounts of Ka and X Band, the Advanced Extremely High Frequency [AEHF] Satellite, which we expect in the next several years, to give us a robust and stable satellite system. In addition, there is the Mobile User Objective Satellite [MUOS] system, which the Navy is putting together and we really need. It will give us expanded Ultra High Frequency [UHF] Tactical Satellite [TACSAT] narrow-band and wide-band.
We have critical needs for those, as we’re now using commercial satellite surrogates. We need to be able to move to more military satellites, to reduce our operation and maintenance costs, and also to have control over those satellites in a stressed environment. We want to make sure there are at least some satellites for which the Department of Defense has control, so we don’t have to rely totally on the commercial sector. So as the military satellite constellation matures, we’ll have to make adjustments. We will move the Joint Network Nodes over to the Wideband Gapfiller, to get onto the military satellite constellation. We would like to move many of our military satellite terminals to the Wideband Gapfiller, and eventually MUOS and some to AEHF. It’s very important to make that transition. So as we’re in declining resources, we’ve focused resources to make sure we make the transition, and get the return on investment using military satellite constellations.
EOIP will make us much more efficient as resources decline. EOIP was pioneered by our special operations people, such as the JCSE, SOCOM and the 112th Signal Battalion. They were our leaders in EOIP. We took the products they were using and pulled together our team from Fort Monmouth, the Fort Gordon Battle Lab, the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, and Communications- Tactical, MITRE Corp. and CIO/G-6, and then partnered with industry. This included Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Data Path, Cisco, Lockheed Martin and others. That team put together the Army’s EOIP program, which has allowed us to push EOIP very rapidly across the battlefield. We’ve been very successful with that program, and very pleased with it, but we need to complete it. Over time, with declining resources, we have to continue to enhance those programs as they grow into the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical [WIN-T] program which will bring networkcentricity to a new level.
Q: What are you doing to conserve resources through consolidation?
A: As we get the robust networks enabled by GIG-BE, it finally makes sense to really develop our data centers as envisioned. We have the DISA mega centers around the country, and local server centers have converged into them. But many programs have not made that move, primarily because they did not have the robust network to access them. The next step, as part of our business transformation, is to start collapsing all these servers and systems that we have on Army bases around the nation into a few data centers. We’re going to do that in the Army. We’re going to do it because of the total cost of ownership [TCO], effectiveness and efficiencies. When you go to a major data center, you can afford to invest in backup power and multiple networks that feed that data center. It’s time to start moving and relocating many of our smaller data centers into those larger data centers, most of which are joint and run by DISA.
We’re in that process and have already selected two data centers. We are collapsing the mail and application servers from different Army bases and depots into those data centers. We expect to see a huge return on investment from this effort, which we have already validated with the Gartner Group and experienced in Europe and Korea. Now we want to start collapsing other services, such as our Enterprise Resource Planning [ERP] programs. Let’s next move our data centers that we have elsewhere into the data centers that are running PeopleSoft, Systems Applications and Products in Data Processing [SAP] and Oracle Financial, for such programs as the Army’s portion of Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System [DIMHRS], General Fund Enterprise Business System [GFEBS], Logistics Modernization Program [LMP] and Global Combat Support System-Army [GCSS-A]. We’re going to move those major servers into those huge data centers for efficiency.
Q: What advantages do you see in thin-client technology?
A: Data centers on the GIG allow us to get into the thin-client world. Not everyone needs a computer underneath their desk to keep their feet warm. It’s a culture thing—people want a computer on their desk. But in fact, if you have a robust network, thin client allows those computers to be consolidated. In a major headquarters, you can mitigate security issues and drive down the cost of ownership by not having computers under some desks with hard drives that have to be updated. Let’s do that in a consolidated place such as a major headquarters, and it’s our intention to do that as we move the Training and Doctrine Command [TRADOC], Forces Command [FORSCOM] and so on. We’re going to make those thin-client major headquarters, at least for a preponderance of users in the headquarters. It’s about TCO.
To some extent, we can also run thin clients off of our huge data centers. The maturation of technology has really changed data centers today. The joint data centers that were built 10 years ago were full of equipment. You’ll find that these older data centers are largely empty today because the hardware has been reduced in size and the amount of power required. We’re going to capitalize on that. We have been working very closely with Lieutenant General Croom at DISA to begin the process of moving into those data centers. We’ll negotiate the cost as it is a cost-based move. It is part of our business transformation.
Q: What is your portfolio management strategy?
A: As we transform on both the business and the warfighting side, the secretary and chief of staff of the Army have directed that we go through a portfolio management process. We’ve identified the Army domains which include warfighting, business, intelligence and computing infrastructure. We’ve identified owners of each domain and the owners are defining which programs they really own. What programs does the G4 really have? How many does she have? In this case, Lieutenant General Dunwoody has hundreds of logistics programs. The G2, Lieutenant General Kimmons, has hundreds of intelligence programs.
We’ve been tasked in writing by the secretary and chief of staff of the Army to reduce the number of redundant programs by 80 percent by the end of 2007. Portfolio management is the vehicle to get that done. We are looking at every application and program and consolidating them into the ones we’re going to keep and not going to keep. Again, it’s about TCO, a maturing of our products and organizations, and an expected reduction in our budget.
Every six months, we review all the portfolios in the Army. We’ve had two portfolio reviews so far, and the next one is in January 2007. The domain owner is responsible for reducing his or her applications by 80 percent. The secretary of the Army is very much in tune with this and looks at this program very closely. The CIO/G6 has made significant strides in portfolio management. We’re pleased with where we are now, but concerned where we’ll be by the end of 2007, so we are applying increasing pressure on the domains to get that job done.
Q: What challenges do you face in reducing redundant applications?
A: Five or 10 years ago, if you wanted an application in your Army organization, there was no commercial application to do it. So you hired a contractor or a government employee to write that government software and build that application. Those applications and programs still exist across the Army and our sister services. In addition, as applications started to come on the commercial market, we individually bought those applications and have been using them for several years. Now that there are enterprise applications that have become very mature we want to use them but find that there is a reluctance to shift over to enterprise applications when so many have been using a previous application, home-grown or otherwise, for many years. But we have to accept change.
We understand that people don’t like change, and want to operate in their zone of comfort. But if you’re going to transform, you have to embrace change. So we’re driving that and are successful in the management of those affected domains. We bought an enterprise license for ProSite, and have now moved it around the world, with teams on the road training worldwide to help with our resource management. ProSite is now picking up a lot of functions that were done by older applications. It’s enabled a large reduction in legacy applications.
But it’s a culture thing, and people like to operate with what they have used for many years, and they also like to have industry partners operating those applications. As we reduce those numbers, that can be onerous. But our investment is in people, and people are expensive. As we become more efficient, we’re able to do more with less. People are very reluctant to give up their applications. We are not unique; all the services are going through this much like the Navy is with Navy Marine Corps Intranet [NMCI]. It’s the right thing to do, and we have to do it. We’ve grown, especially with this war, and we need to bring that back down to something that is more efficient and affordable. We need to be effective, because we’re in a war, but we also need to bring back some efficiencies into our organizations.
As you look at business applications, you also have to look at what has grown within our combat units. One of the divisions in SWA today has more than 500 applications. Many of these were homegrown or brought and are not systems of record. We are working with Combatant Commanders and the Army in defining specifically which applications will be allowed on the next rotations into Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re going to define and reduce those applications. We’ll do that with our warfighters; we do not know what the number is, but 500 is the wrong number.
First of all, the training for those 500 applications is unique to that division. Those 500 applications don’t all reside in the next division that will rotate in, and soldiers move between divisions, brigades and battalions. We owe it to the young soldiers in the Army to ensure that they know what applications will be used at a brigade, division or battalion. So we’re putting a significant effort into defining, refining and documenting each. We’re working with Central Command [CENTCOM], and they’ve asked us to help them with which applications the units rotating into the SWA should be allowed to bring. This too will be part of the 80 percent reduction.
Q: How are you working to foster collaboration through technology?
A: We’re moving from an e-mail environment into a knowledgebased force. If you look over the past few years, e-mail was one of the first things to become popular. Now we’ve moved into a collaborative environment. Collaboration programs are tremendously popular, but more at the grassroots level more than pushed through as systems of record. The major collaboration programs that you will see in SWA were really championed by organizations going to SWA, by divisions, the Multinational Force, etc. Sometimes they have been commercial applications, such as information workspace applications or Groove. However, in some cases, they’ve built their own because of their desire to share information and collaborate in a specific way. So we’re going through a sorting process today, asking what applications we want to use and where we have redundancies. Let’s bring these in, document them and decide what our forces need to use.
We’re also defining which applications brigades and divisions should use for collaboration. What Web site package should they use? When possible we’re going to buy applications, if we don’t already own them, as enterprise licenses. So if the 1st Cavalry has a Web site, which they do, the application software used for their site will be the same application used by other divisions for their Web pages. It’s important to share knowledge and streamline by using enterprise licenses. You can brand your Web site however you like, but the underpinnings will be the same enterprise software. We are going to define specific Application Programming Interfaces [APIs] as well. We will direct the minimum information they should share out of their Web sites. We’re going to leave them a lot of latitude for the things they want to do, but give them a subset of things that they will share to begin to build out our knowledge networks.
We’ve been screening every Army division to see what products they are using, and we’re going to be sure to use enterprise products. We expect to finalize this by the end of the summer. The divisions have asked us to do that. This isn’t something we’ve been pushing from the top; they have asked us to help give structure to some of these applications.
Defining collaboration is really at the center of the work we do today. While the services were worrying about systems of record and long development times, smart young men and women went out and built their own, and use them every day. We need to get on board with those young leaders and say, you’ve done it right, and you know what you need. So we’re putting a lot of effort into collaboration, and seeing quick results.
Q: How are you preparing for the planned consolidation of forces within the United States?
A: As we’ve extended the network, we’ve also had to adjust the network based on Base Realignment and Closure [BRAC] and the Integrated Global Presence and Basing Strategy [IGPBS] which entails bringing most of the Army forces back to the U.S. When we finish BRAC and IGBPS, for the first time in recent history, 90 percent of the Army will reside in the continental U.S. We must make sure that they have a robust network as they move back home to posts, camps and stations. That network needs to be IP-based; the telephone switches need to be digital, and fiber and training needs to be extended down to the lowest level. The Army’s program for upgrading those posts is the Installation Information Infrastructure Modernization Program [I3MP] and we’re upgrading very aggressively to make sure we are ready to receive units when they return from overseas. So bringing those onboard with BRAC and IGBPS is one of our priorities right now.
In many of the posts, camps and stations, we are adopting commercial wireless systems in accordance with the DoD wireless policy. The big move toward wireless is important, and we are moving out on it. We have put wireless at the port in Jacksonville, and at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, and there are more places going wireless in the near future. We must develop our wireless networks as a seamless part of the entire DISN Core, the DISA mega centers, and our overall architecture.
Q: What are you doing to improve the technology education of the force?
A: As we’ve gone through the process, there are two things we can’t forget. One is the education of our force. When I say the education of our force, we need to start at the beginning, even before young men and women enter the services. We have a partnership with the National Science Center in Augusta, Ga., as directed by legislation, to interest young men and women in math and sciences. We have worked with several hundred thousand young people across the country to ensure that our nation continues to grow in math and science skills.
So we’ve started with young children, and then work up to the men and women coming into the Army. At Fort Gordon, Ga., we’ve started LandWarNet University, spending about $30 million over the last year. We’ve added 39 temporary classrooms and converted almost all the classrooms to an EOIP environment. It’s a Joint IP environment of routers, switches, Voice Over IP [VOIP] and secure video teleconferencing. We’ve revamped the entire Fort Gordon LandWarNet University. All the services are involved at Fort Gordon. It is truly a joint university. The Joint Satellite School is there and we’re putting in a joint warfighter’s course for middlegrade officers. We’re very pleased with the joint environment we’re fostering at Fort Gordon. We must “Train for certainty educate for uncertainty.”
Q: What role does distance learning play?
A: Technology in our business moves so fast that you can’t expect to send every man and woman back to Fort Gordon every time a new version of an operating system or router is released. Although they get their basic training there on these technologies, part of our investment over the past year was to build a very robust online e-learning program. When a new operating system, router or switch comes out, a young man or woman deployed around the world can go online to the LandWarNet University and get trained on those new systems or devices to stay current. The training is available to all our DoD people.
Our Army e-learning Program is extremely popular. There are currently over 31,000 Army users registered for the program. We have more than 2,600 free Web-based courses in our Army e-learning catalog, available to active Army, National Guard, Reservists and Department of Army civilians. Users must have an Army Knowledge Online [AKO] account prior to registering for a program. For example, we have 30 Rosetta Stone foreign language courses. We see large numbers of soldiers training on their own time to learn languages. The number one language is Spanish [Latin American], followed by Arabic and German. Also, 21,000 are taking classes on information assurance, Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol [TCP/IP], firewalls and “Lean Six Sigma.”
It is interesting to note that when enlisted soldiers complete a class and take the exam, the system automatically updates their completion in the Army Training Requirements and Resources System [ATTRS] and that automated transcript provides promotion points. So there’s an incentive. We also provide preparatory courses for more than 40 information technology certifications to include Microsoft and Cisco certification and 28 course modules that have been recommended by the American Council on Education for college credits.
Educating our men and women, both civilian and military, is a key part of the richness of the Army and DoD for the future. It is important that as resources decline, we do not allow a decline in the resources focused on the education of our force. We also have a program called Army Knowledge Leaders. The CIO/G6 annually selects about six of the best students we can find in universities, in software and electrical engineering, who have graduated with honors. We put them into a two-year CIO/G-6 sponsored program, where we move them around the world and teach them about the Army. We’ve had that program for quite a few years, and it’s been very successful. It’s producing a lot of superstars for the next generation of leaders.
Q: What about technology education at the senior level?
A: At the senior level, we tend to forget about educating those of us who have been around for a while and have not grown up with this technology. So our vice chief, supported by the chief of staff of the Army [CSA], directed the G3 and G6 to put together a battle command workshop, and run all of our general officers and selected Senior Executive Service people through it. It’s to teach them about IT on the battlefield. We show them how we and our adversaries leverage IT. The chief of staff said, “I want to change the way our senior leaders view the network on the battlefield.”
There’s a lot going on that you don’t see on the network. It’s by adversaries, nation states, white collar criminals and individuals. They use instant messaging and Web sites, and attack our networks constantly. We can’t forget that, because sometimes the decisions on where improvised explosive devices [IEDs] and rocket-propelled grenades [RPGs] will be employed are being made on our adversaries’ networks. They leverage the Internet just like we do. We’re trying to change the culture of our senior leaders so that they understand more about the networks and the processes used by adversaries, as well as by our own soldiers.
Most of our senior leaders grew up before the Information Age and the Internet became popular. So we spend a Friday and Saturday, with about 30 generals and SES executives, from the Army and other services. We run one course a month, educating them on these types of devices and technologies, so they can have that knowledge in their quiver of arrows when they go back to the fight.
It’s important that senior leaders understand this, because they’re also the ones who allocate resources and make decisions. They need to understand the entire battlefield, including the networked battlefield. It’s been very successful. We have graduated about 200 Army generals from this program so far. We plan on having all our generals go through the program by the summer of 2007. The CSA attended one of the sessions, and believes we’re on target and has validated our curriculum.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Often, we get enthralled by the technology. The technology is exciting, but at the end of the day everything we spend on technology has to be about enhancing our warfighters, and enhancing and enabling those who make decisions about our forces. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in technology, we forget why we’re doing this. It’s about warfighting, defending our nation, and the global war on terrorism. Resources need to be focused on defending the American way of life, our future and our children’s future. That’s the way our dollars should be allocated, and that’s what Congress expects as we design systems and put them into the field, whether they be Teleports, fiber or systems for individual soldiers. At the end of the day, it’s for ensuring that our children have the same great way of life that we have had. ♦