Defence CIO group plans internal 'App Store'

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Department 'trapped' in sub-optimal acquisition process.

The Defence chief information officer group has revealed long-term plans to set up an internal ‘App Store’ to house the thousands of apps used by personnel on two computer networks.

Chief technology officer Matt Yannopoulos told the Network Centric Warfare conference in Canberra that the Defence CIO group had insufficient resources to effectively support “more than 1,000” applications on Defence’s secret network and 3,086 applications on the restricted network.

Most of the applications were unnecessarily duplicated across the two networks, he said, putting pressure on architecture management which had flow on effects to other parts of Defence’s technology operations.

Yannopoulos said a balance needed to be struck between the diverse requirements of Defence personnel and the complexity of the underlying infrastructure layer.

“One of my excuses for why the DRN [Defence Restricted Network] is not as good as it should be is the diversity [of applications],” he said.

"It is important that those infrastructure layers are standardised and reliable, otherwise the diversity will kill us.”

Yannapoulos hoped to establish underlying technology that could support the development of "better and more suitable" applications by soldiers, sailors, airmen, and industry.

He also hoped to centralise the way apps were served up to personnel through a type of internal 'App Store'.

“I’d like to get to a point where we have all this in a library – call it the internal Defence “App Store” - where all of these services are available and our users can pull them together to support their processes,” he said.

Technology delays

Yannopoulos also revealed that Defence had considered departing from the Kinnaird two-pass procurement process to reduce sourcing bottlenecks.

He described Defence's current ICT sourcing delivery models as sub-optimal and slow.

Introduced in 2008, the two-pass process was designed to provide Cabinet with better information on major investments in ICT-enabled proposals.

The Government was presented a series of options for a project prior to allocating budget or final approval.

"It takes four years to develop the concepts to get Government approval, [which] absolutely guarantees that we’ll issue out of date technology," he said.

“We are trapped in our acquisition process. I sit on some of these committees and worry about what we are doing. It is not optimal ... Something will have to change and it will change soon, is my hope and guess."

Yannapoulos said Defence was keen to reduce the delays caused by the two-pass process, though he conceded it may upset other central agencies of Government.

“That is proving enormously challenging for our relationships with central agencies and their desire to see one foot of paperwork before they’ll agree to give us more dollars to develop the concept further. But we are going to keep pushing that. To do anything else is silly – even though culturally it is challenging them. “

Data layers

Yannapoulos also raised concerns about data layers and ownership within Defence ICT structures.

In particular, ensuring data sets used by Defence personnel and systems were reliable and authoritative remained a challenge.

“It’s proving challenging to find new constructs like data ownership and who is responsible for the quality of our data. I had a meeting not that long ago with a whole heap of three star officers concerning our personnel systems. There was universal agreement that data in the system was not good.

“I asked them: which one of you owns it? There were blank looks. We have to do something about that if we want to actually sort the data layer."

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