Defence spells out IT renewal

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 16 Jul 2007

The Department of Defence will spend about half-a-billion rand in the next seven years to put in place an ICT "system of systems".

The system will integrate the SA National Defence Force's disparate legacy and new command-and-control systems (C2), as well as the department's administration systems. This is according to the department's colonel Colin Brand, a senior staff officer in the directorate of ICT of the department's Command Management Information Systems (CMIS) division.

Brand explains the adventurous side of defence ICT - or information and communications systems and services in military nomenclature - involves connecting the sensor to the shooter, an example being a forward observer to an artillery battery.

Achieving interconnectivity in defence administration systems and connecting these to that of the broader public service is an ordinary task for the department: "We are [just] another state department, whether we accept it or not," Brand says. Integrating the C2 and administrative systems, which is a necessity under modern conditions, is equally commonplace.

Enabling information

"Most operations today are not military - but civil-driven," says Brand, in reference to the SANDF's current position as a foreign policy enabler in the hands of president Thabo Mbeki and the foreign affairs establishment.

"We are just the enabler," he says of the SANDF, and the national design and function of the CMIS division in the department. "Our whole job is to enable information: 'one version of the truth' in terms of accurate and congruent reporting."

This is being done through a defence enterprise information systems (DEIS) master plan, he says. "The DEIS is the single corporate master plan of the department for the collaborative ICS planning to both the services [Army, Air Force, Navy] and divisions."

The fundamentals underlying the plan include a focus on implementation and avoiding the so-called "Big Bang Approach". Brand says the Department of Transport's woeful implementation of the electronic National Traffic Information System was personally very instructive. "I learnt a lot there."

Other imperatives include using a "building-block approach" and expanding, as well as refining, the DEIS master plan through cycles of continuous improvement. In addition, CMIS as the plan's implementer will focus on "those solutions that are imperative as opposed to desirable".

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