RSA: Pentagon CIO Touts Cost Advantages Of Private-Public Data Centers

The U.S. Department of Defense, working together with private industry, has pulled off impressive feats like creating a big part of the Internet, sending humans to the moon and developing cutting-edge mobile communications technology.

Now, with security threats coming at a breakneck pace, the DoD-private industry partnership is more important than ever, Terry Halvorsen, CIO of the DoD, said in a presentation Wednesday at the RSA Conference in San Francisco.

Halvorsen, the Pentagon's top IT executive, oversees a vast IT organization that spends $40 billion annually in supporting around 1.4 million active duty members and 500,000 contractors.

[Related: DHS Secretary On Cybersecurity: Public, Private Sectors Need To Work Together]

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Since taking his post in March, Halvorsen has been touting data center partnerships between private and public sector firms as a way to whittle down that $40 billion to a more manageable figure.

This summer, the DoD plans to launch a pilot program in which a private company delivers data distribution services to commercial customers through a government data center, while also serving commercial customers from the same site, FCW reported in March.

Halvorsen said the DoD is also developing a standardized approach to security through its Joint Regional Security Stacks (JRSS) project, which are collections of security hardware and software shared among large numbers of users.

The first JRSS is now live in San Antonio and has traffic going through it today, Halvorsen said. The JRSS is designed to secure all network traffic for both the Army and Air Force but isn't yet fully operational.

By the end of 2017, all DoD agency services will be run through JRSS deployments, said Halvorsen. "What they do is start to give me the basis of a single security architecture for the DoD," he said.

While Halvorsen sees promise for private-public data centers, private firms will need to play by the DoD's liability rules, which are stricter than in the private sector.

"You lose DoD data and it's going to make the news, and there's going to be congressional and press interest," he said. "You assume some of that liability if you want to [handle] DoD data. As an industry, if you want to play, you have to know you assume some of that responsibility."