Coast Guard searches for IT efficiencies in cloud, mobile

Thursday - 3/8/2012, 10:39pm EST

Rear Adm. Robert Day, chief information officer, Coast Guard

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By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

After more than a decade of development, the Coast Guard is about to enjoy the fruits of its IT labor.

The fifth military service will begin using a host of command, control, communications, computers (C4) technologies that it has been developing for at least 10 years.

Rear Adm. Robert Day, the Coast Guard's chief information officer, said the IT advancements will give the agency's cutters and other ships advancements to meet their wide-ranging mission.

"Most of them are really finishing off sensor capabilities that are being installed aboard our newest cutters and our new aircraft. It's across the board, but the bottom line is it's to enhance our ability to do maritime domain awareness," Day said. "To look at targets of interest, classify those targets of interest and apply intelligence to further enhance so we are searching smarter. That we are going from point A to point B and going to a target out there, be it a drug smuggler, migration, human smugglers or even in our fisheries arena, to be able to identify exactly which targets we want to look at. Gone are the days we are just patrolling around in an area and hope we stumble on a target. Now using these new systems, we are able to apply intelligence and smartly leverage capabilities and get them on target and prosecute our mission"

Now that these new systems are ready for development, Day said a lot of the Coast Guard's plan will focus on gaining efficiencies from IT spending and cybersecurity upgrades.

Day, who also is the director of C4&IT and director of the service's cyber command, said the IT efficiencies will come in a variety of ways.

The Coast Guard, which is a directorate under the Homeland Security Department, is moving to one of two agency data centers.

Along those same lines, Day said the Coast Guard soon will issue a solicitation for private cloud hosting services for its human resources system.

He said the agency's HR system already lives in a private cloud, and the request for proposals will explore other potential private cloud options.

Day said the Coast Guard also is looking at email-as-a-service, specifically for the Coast Guard Auxillary, a volunteer branch of the service.

Recently, the Coast Guard finished up a consolidation of help desk services.

Day said this is an example of a change that is saving money and giving employees better service.

"This is computer support for 55,000 people, but the regional desks were open from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.," he said. "We did a business case analysis and found a centralized capability would save money, but also we could leverage it to provide 24/7/365 coverage. We expect to save $2.5 million per year, and the number of tickets left open at the end of a day nationwide is between 100 and 150, which was the same number at one of the large regional centers."

Mobile computing is another focus area for the Coast Guard as most employees are not working in an office. Day said the agency is working closely with the Defense Department and DHS to address security concerns. Coast Guard is piloting Android and iPhones devices.

"There are issues there, but we are working closely with DoD and DHS to find the mitigation," Day said. "This is an area where industry needs to help us out. We want to leverage these capabilities. We want to build applications that work with our back end. So our highly mobile workforce can have the ability to reach back into my enterprise infrastructure securely as such that we can leverage these capabilities."

Finally, Day said industry should pay close attention the Coast Guard's annual industry day in August. He said that is where the service will detail all of its plans and needs for IT.

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