May 11, 2022

DHA performing essential internal computer system cleanup

The Defense Health Agency inherited hundreds of technology contracts when the Department of Defense created the new organization more than eight years ago to improve governance and coordination among military health facilities.

These contracts were not developed to support a centralized infrastructure with over 240,000 Windows endpoints and double the number of medical devices.

Pat Flanders, chief information officer at DHA, said the goal is to consolidate and standardize more than 200 separate contracts to less than 10 over the next three to four years.

Pat Flanders is the CIO of the Defense Health Agency.

“The plan is to replace all those in this multi-system integrator model. The first of them is the one that was recently awarded, and that is the Information Technology Services Integrator contract (EITSI) The awardee of this contract is like a program manager support contract, they work on the government side of the fence, helping us manage follow-on contracts, which are for geographic service providers “Flanders said on Ask the CIO. “You can think of every IT department hitting labor support in every military treatment center and clinic in any part of the United States, say the East Coast or something. Those are the big vehicles, and then for areas where we need a lot of expertise in a domain, say something like Active Directory, we will have capacity service provider contracts, although they are larger s small. The intention here is to get some nice 10 year long contracts and bring them all in line with the EITSI contract with the government. This EITSI contract also operates our Global Service Center, a 24/7 global help desk of approximately 450 people as a feedback mechanism. So you have the helpdesk feedback on this EITSI contract, and then they literally help us define the requirements and phase the other contracts.

DHA awarded Peraton the EITSI contract in August. It is a 10-year firm fixed-price aggregate purchase agreement (BPA) with an order cap of $2 billion. Peraton beat out six other competitors for the award.

Flanders said the next round of replacement contracts are underway, starting with the first geographic service provider. The DHA held an industry day in early September and is gathering feedback. He said his office will continue to follow this same approach to awarding all corresponding contracts with the next awards coming this summer.

While contract awards are the sizzle for the industry, the real meat of the effort is the modernized infrastructure and services that DHA customers will benefit from.

Flanders said the consolidation and standardization effort will reduce the burden of managing and maintaining those 200 contracts. This will reduce costs for DHA and provide better and more consistent infrastructure and service delivery.

As part of this effort as well as the broader IT modernization strategy, DHA is also removing obsolete systems and software from its inventory.

The ‘Left Behind Effort’ is in full swing

Tom Hines, director of engineering and technology transformation at DHA, said the separate but related MEDCoi – Medical Community of Interest – effort includes application migration and modernization and is a key part of this initiative to consolidation.

“When you think of something as massive as a global network and the movement of all of those elements of that network from seven legacy networks, not only do you have things that get left behind, but you basically have the hooks and all that stuff sitting on your switches and your routers and your firewalls and your whole security architecture. Human nature is such that when you do a new deployment you tend to add things, you never take them away. So it’s that cleaning activity,” Hines said. “We have a whole team of people, who we euphemistically call ‘the effort left behind’. It’s really about going back and cleaning up all the legacy enterprise services and rules and rulesets and network pointers and that kind of stuff so what we really have is a clean thing that we can maintain in the future. It’s a huge effort. I have a series of subject matter experts who are currently learning about the network, figuring out exactly what the goals are, what things need to be done, and we plan to automate a lot of that progress in the future. We have three pilots starting pretty soon.

Hines said the pilots will focus on automation using open source products and specially trained people to understand the spider’s web architecture and ensure mission services don’t break. .

“The approach is really twofold. First, we take a frontal approach that says, “What does the law look like?” It comes down to delivery engineering and it begs the question, knowing what we know about what’s supposed to be on the network and how it’s supposed to work, what exactly does that look like? We model that and build it into a database. We then take agents, network tools, which are intended to investigate the actual operation of the network, what ports and protocols are used, what devices are communicating, what corporate services are they communicating with? And then we do a big net-net against what theoretically should be and what actually works because we have our networks to date,” he said. “We have agents on the devices. We have agents on the switches. We obviously have them on firewalls, routers, all of that is centrally monitored and managed. We are now, for the first time, able to take what should be and what is actually operational in the field, compare the two and understand what the difference is, and also what anomalous activity is happening that we don’t care about. would never wait.

The expert team will start eliminating all devices and apps that shouldn’t be there or are no longer needed. Hines said this team of experts will play a key role in “drift management,” meaning it will ensure that system and network configurations remain consistent.

Flanders said the new network will be more manageable, more easily secured and rely on fewer tools.

“We have a really good idea of ​​spending, who’s spending what and where, and I have a team of people analyzing that and currently looking for consolidation opportunities. We’ve done a bunch, and we’ve got a bunch of other ones planned. There’s going to be some organizational changes here at HQ, where I’m probably going to have a new assignment to standardize X-ray machines. And so it’s going to be really big,” he said. “I believe we We’ve come a long way in just four years, and every year it gets better and better.”