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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has continued to fight on many fronts, not least in Afghanistan and Iraq, this year. Little wonder then that the spotlight has fallen on technology in its ability to give troops a competitive edge by saving time or money, as well as potentially saving lives.
Technology activities continued throughout the last year on the £4 billion, 10-year Defence Information Infrastructure (DII) project designed to support MoD operations with a common, secure network. Awarded in 2005, to the EDS-led Atlas consortium is responsible for overhauling IT infrastructure across 2,000 MoD locations worldwide, including permanent MoD offices, military sites, airbases and submarines.
To date, the MoD said over 30,000 User Access Devices (UADs) have been deployed, with a live service supporting over 85,000 MoD users in the UK and overseas. “The operational service is stable and support responsive,” it stated, where DII has directly enabled £277 million in business benefits.
During this time the programme has also needed to adapt to unforeseen operational requirements, in support of operations in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan at short notice, which affected implementation schedules. But from a public-facing perspective, new technology procurement has meanwhile continued at quite a rate in both strategic and operational areas.
Just before the end of last year, the Altas consortium awarded a major contract for Infonic's Geo-Replication software valued at a minimum of £8.3 million, where £4.1 million of software was to be delivered in the first 90 days of the contract. The supplier will also provide £402-million worth of contracted maintenance and services seven years.
Earlier that year, the department invested in specially secured mobile devices to let staff communicate on the move. BT was contracted to deliver the BlackBerry Enterprise Server from Research in Motion through the Defence Fixed Telecommunications Service on behalf of the MoD, as the only mobile data solution cleared for its use. The system also allows lost or stolen BlackBerry devices to be wiped or shut down remotely.
And this year, the MoD implemented its first high-security wireless network based on approved Aruba Networks equipment for its Trading Fund’s Defence Support Group. Malcolm Smith, head of information systems at the Defence Support Group at the time stated: “As a supplier of vehicle and equipment services to our armed forces we are constantly looking at ways to make our organisation run more efficiently.”
Even those systems outside the DII remit got a security boost in the wake of high profile public sector data security breaches, when the defence agency said it was rolling out advanced encryption systems to protect classified data on British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force laptops working outside secure military network. But it said that the software, which has been in use on DII computers since 2006, would ultimately allow easier integration between those outside the network at a later date.
This was closely followed by the successful launch of the third communications satellite making up the £3.6 billion Skynet 5 programme for secure, high-bandwidth network voice, video and data MoD communications. The final launch had been delayed earlier this year during software testing procedures, following the launch of the first two satellites in April and November last year. But the system supplied Paradigm, a division of EADS Astrium was launched in May.
Not content with securing core operations, the MoD also launched an online travel booking system for service personnel this spring that it said would cut costs by £35 million a year by 2009. The Defence Travel system can be used by 30,000 staff and will allow them to compare the best pricing options available for travel, while giving the organisation as whole better visibility of the process so it can use its combined buying power.
At the time, the MoD stated: “The core IT systems supporting the Defence Travel service run on the Defence Electronic Commerce Service (DECS) multi-purpose platform provided to the MoD by Capgemini UK under long-term contract and managed from a Capgemini UK secure datacentre in the UK using employees with special security clearance.
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