Originally Broadcast August 11, 2007
Welcome to The Business of Government Hour, a conversation about management with a government executive who is changing the way government does business. The Business of Government Hour is produced by The IBM Center for The Business of Government, which was created in 1998 to encourage discussion and research into new approaches to improving government effectiveness.
You can find out more about the Center by visiting us on the web at businessofgovernment.org.
And now, The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: This is Albert Morales, your host, and managing partner of The IBM Center for The Business of Government.
The Department of Defense is transforming to become a netcentric force, and information is critical to this transformation. Increased data exchange and integrated operations are essential components of contemporary information warfare, and highlights the need for cooperation between DoD and industry. The information environment needs to be modern, seamless, interoperable, secure, and globally accessible.
With us this morning to discuss the role his organization has in the effort is our special guest, R. Paul Ryan, administrator of the Defense Technical Information Center, otherwise known as DTIC.
Mr. Ryan: Good morning.
Mr. Morales: Also joining us in our conversation is John Thomas, associate partner in IBM's application innovation practice.
Good morning, John.
Mr. Thomas: Good morning.
Mr. Morales: Paul, though our audience is probably quite familiar with the Department of Defense, it may not be as familiar with the Defense Technical Information Center. Perhaps you could tell us about its history, the purpose, and the evolution of DTIC.
Mr. Ryan: I'd be glad to. DTIC's central function is the repository for scientific and technical information supporting DoD's research and engineering efforts. We have a history that goes back 60 years, and in that sense, we're actually older than the Department of Defense. We began with collection of documents from World War II, measured in tonnage that came over from London on liberty ships, 250 tons at that time managed by the Army Air Corps. They went to Wright-Patterson. That became the nucleus of our collection.
We served as the Air Force broke away from the Army -- primarily the Air Force -- in 1951, Secretary of Defense Marshall established us as an organization called ASTIA, still executive agent for the Air Force, but we were then to serve all three departments, so all three departments would be on equal footing in using scientific and technical information to advance their R&D programs.
We've gone through a series of changes organizationally. A fair amount of time in our career, we have been part of other organizations, sub-elements of organizations such as the Defense Logistics Agency or the Defense Information Systems Agency. We've been part of acquisition technology and logistics in a sub-role there. In 2004, the decision was made to bring DTIC back to the Defense Research and Engineering Office. At that time, the decision was also made to establish us as an independent field activity, no longer making us directly subordinate to a different parent organization.
That change was significant for DTIC in that it raised our visibility and raised the footprint that we had throughout the Department. I'd like to emphasize when I talk to people that DTIC is an organization that is very proactive and has a lot of forward-leaning efforts underway. Back in the late '60s and early '70s, we were one of the first three organizations in the world to develop an online bibliographic information system. The other two were NASA Recon and the Dialogue system.
Later in the mid-90s, we launched our first website in 1994, and we're very good at it. So good that for over a decade, we handled the Department of Defense's main website, Defenselink, and we still host, support and maintain about 100-plus websites for the Department in addition to our own website.
Mr. Morales: Paul, can you provide us a sense of the general scale of your organization? Perhaps you can tell us how it's organized, the size of your budget, and what the mix is between full-time employees, government employees as well as contractors.
Mr. Ryan: Sure. We're not a big organization, but we like to say we do big things. We're about 300 government employees, full-time. We have contractor support in the neighborhood of 40-50 people, give and take, full-time, helping us out. DTIC is organized into six major directorates and a program management office that supports our Information Analysis Center program. Our main location is at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. We have a couple of regional offices in the Boston area, Dayton, Ohio area, Albuquerque area, and Los Angeles. Our budget is in the neighborhood of $51 million in FY '07.
Mr. Thomas: Paul, could you tell us more about your specific role? What are your responsibilities and duties as administrator of DTIC, and how do you support the mission of DoD?
Mr. Ryan: Obviously, as head of the organization, I lead it. My boss is the Honorable John J. Young, the Director of Defense Research and Engineering, so one of my duties is to support him and his goals. I have to ensure that the resources, people and dollars are available to my staff and distributed properly. That's one of the main functions I believe a director of an organization does. I make sure that the DTIC goals are aligned with the goals of DDR&E and right up the chain -- AT&L, Acquisition Technology and Logistics, the QDR goals -- the Quadrennial Defense Review goals -- as well as the President's Management Agenda.
We've just released our 2007-2012 strategic plan. In there, we outline eight strategic objectives that start with providing outstanding customer support, increasing information and resource awareness, making access to information easier, expanding global information resources, and on and on. So those are the kinds of things that I see that I help the organization do by organizing, having the proper resources, putting the right people with the right skills in the right positions, and then what I hope to do is stand back and have trust in my senior leadership that they'll carry out those programs.
Mr. Thomas: Paul, given the broad range of responsibilities and duties you just outlined, what are the top three challenges that you face in the organization, and how have you addressed those challenges?
Mr. Ryan: Well, I'd say the three challenges that come to my mind are the rapid change in technology; making sure our networks, our processes, and the information we receive is secure; and third, to make sure that our collections are rich in content, that we get all of the information that DoD is paying in the research and development process.
In addressing them: first, the rapid change in technology. We all know that technology is moving at a frantic pace. There's global change. It's imperative, I believe, that we understand what these nuances in technologies are, what the new technologies coming out are. I don't necessarily worry about whether we're on the leading and cutting edge of new technologies. But I at least need to know what they are, so when it becomes ripe for us to take an opportunity and advantage of them, we can do that. So making sure we're using technology to our best advantage is one way to address that first issue.
Security of information and networks is very important. It's important to us. It's important to our customers. We get customer information that goes into our systems. It ranges from publicly available information up through secret. A customer certainly expects us to be careful stewards of that information. So we take that level of security very seriously. We have strong network operation in our facilities. We host a number of websites for the Department.
It is very critical that we maintain the network integrity and the security. Because of who we are, we are really on the outside of the Department of Defense as far as facing challenges and network attacks. We've been very successful in not having been brought down by worms, by viruses, by denial of service attacks, simply because our staff is so good at maintaining network integrity and network security. So network security and the security of the information is very important.
Given the fact that we have these highly protected and versatile networks, they're really kind of useless unless the collection is rich in information. So the third responsibility and challenge is to make sure we are collecting as much information as being produced by the Department, the Department's business partners, industry, et cetera, and get that into our collection. Once it's into our collection, our customer base can be sure that it's useful, authenticated, and coming from a trustworthy source.
Mr. Morales: That is a pretty broad set of responsibilities for just 300 people.
Mr. Ryan: It certainly is, but the staff is up to the challenge. DTIC is a great place to work. A lot of people that are at DTIC have been there for quite a number of years, and I think a lot of that reason is because what we do is very interesting and challenging, and people generally like a challenging job day-in day-out.
Mr. Morales: That's fantastic.
Now, related, you've spent most of your career in Defense-related organizations. Could you describe your career path for our listeners, and how did you get started?
Mr. Ryan: Sure. I went to Villanova University, where I got my graduate degree in mathematics. From there, I went to Drexel University, who was just starting a program in their library school offering a Master's of Science in Information Science, the bringing together of typical library-type work, but automated information with computers. After graduating from Drexel, I was recruited by the Army to work in one of their laboratories, the Picatinny Arsenal Lab up in northern New Jersey.
That's where I spent my early years. I spent the next set of years working for the Ballistic Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, another Army lab. And from there, I went to DTIC in the mid-'80s. It's interesting to note that even when I was up in Picatinny, though, I began my interface with DTIC as far back as then, and began to work with them, understand their systems and their processes. And the other kind of interesting thread that I found is the use of information and computers and automation and processing throughout my career.
The Ballistic Research Laboratory is the Army lab that developed the first computer, the ENIAC, in conjunction with University of Pennsylvania. So there's a tie-in there. BRL, Ballistic Research Laboratory, was also one of the early pioneers in working with ARPA in the use of ARPANET. And so I was on what they call a box on my desk very early on, and I can remember one of the senior scientists at BRL whose e-mail alias was steve@brl, and I can remember seeing an e-mail from him to somebody saying, "Sorry about the informality, but there were only 12 of us on the network when this started."
That's why it was so informal. So it's kind of built from an educational background in this field, hard science in the undergraduate level, information science, working with the automated pieces of information, and then moving into a career within the Department of Defense, very hard science-oriented on the research and development side, to an organization like DTIC that is the central repository for the scientific and technical information that supports DoD's research and engineering efforts.
Mr. Morales: So what would be perhaps one or two of these experiences that you think has best prepared you for your current leadership role and informed your current management approach and leadership style?
Mr. Ryan: I think what really helped early on for me to understand information needs was working in those Army laboratories, working with leading scientists and engineers of worldwide reputation, understanding what their information needs were, and then taking that concept, having worked with them, to an organization like DTIC, and then seeing the internals of how DTIC worked. I started out at DTIC as a program manager in their Information Science and Technology Directorate, moved over to become Director of User Services, director and then at that time, we were adding a marketing phase.
So it became User Services and Marketing. I spent a lot of time on the road talking about DTIC to customers in DoD labs, industry, and to do that successfully, I had to know a lot about every phase of DTIC. So I really learned what was going on in all those six other directorates of DTIC, and I think that is what helped me prepare for a senior leadership position within DTIC. I went from the Director of User Services and Marketing to Deputy Administrator, and then have been either Acting or the Administrator since 2004.
Mr. Morales: What does it mean to be DoD's technical information broker?
We will ask Paul Ryan, administrator of the Defense Technical Information Center, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business on Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Paul Ryan, administrator of the Defense Technical Information Center.
Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is John Thomas.
Paul, several years have passed since DTIC transferred to Defense Research and Engineering within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense. How has this realignment benefited DTIC? And more importantly, how has it enhanced your capabilities and scope of work conducted at the organization?
Mr. Ryan: In a couple of ways. For one, it certainly gave us the opportunity to expand our footprint within the Department. We became much more visible to a lot of people that had an idea of what DTIC was about but didn't really know that fully. But standing up as a field activity gave us the opportunity to be more exposed to the Department and to do various things: it established credibility in that as a field activity, it was clear that we were the source within the Department of Defense that managed scientific and technical information for the Department.
That was a big step forward in understanding that there's one central source to go for this kind of information. It also helped in letting services and defense agencies recognize their requirement to provide DTIC with the results of the research and engineering dollars that they're getting -- in the form of technical reports or technical information -- and being able to put that in one place.
The fact that we're more visible has been one of those things that's also a dual-edged sword. You have a lot of people that now know about you, but we also have then a lot of those requirements that independent organizations have to respond to; data calls that when we were part of another organization, it was nice to have them just take our feed of information and package it together. But that price has certainly been one that I've been wiling to pay, because the other side of that coin has really been the big benefit for DTIC.
Mr. Morales: DTIC's been referred to as the DoD Technical Information broker. Could you elaborate on this moniker for your organization?
Mr. Ryan: Certainly. The fact that being the central repository for all the information being produced by DoD or on behalf of DoD lends to that DoD technical information broker. But there's a lot of information that the Department of Defense uses, needs, or should have access to that isn't created by the Department or paid for the Department. Other federal agencies do a lot for work that is of high interest to DoD. So we work closely with the organizations like NASA and the Department of Energy for which we have something in common, for which the information needs to be shared.
We also have recognized that there's more information being created around the world. So we've had attempts to look at what we can do to reach out and identify that information, or organizations collecting that information, and bring it in to the Department of Defense, bring it in to DTIC, or create links to that information for Department of Defense personnel. Our goal is not to have everything in our building at Fort Belvoir. But what we'd like to do is be able to provide the access mechanism through our websites to this information to make it easier for the DoD customers, be they DoD personnel or the industry partners, to get access to the information they need to do their jobs.
Mr. Thomas: Paul, a couple of years ago, you had launched the Research and Engineering portal. Would you tell us more about this portal, specifically how was it developed, who it serves, and where's the portal today?
Mr. Ryan: When we moved back to DDR&E as a field activity, one of the first things they wanted us to help them with is bring all the information they needed together in one spot. DDR&E at that time said, you know, I want to be able to have one place where I can find out who's doing work in a particular area, when will the work be done, who knows more about this information, how much are we spending on it. And the portal was the beginning of an attempt to bring all the information sources together.
So we started that effort, launched in April of 2005. We then subsequently have been adding databases as they become identified as -- this would be a good resource. We've created search engines to cut across the multiple information facets that are available through the Research and Engineering portal. And we have also continued to improve that with things like single sign-on, so that if there are 16 databases within the Research and Engineering portal, you don't have to remember 16 passwords.
We have used a mechanism now where you just type a single password, and we keep all the background information, and you automatically have access to all 16 databases.
Some of the things we need to do in the future and we're working on right now is provide some analysis tools for all this information. It really doesn't do much good to create mounds of information that you can throw on somebody's computer, but not give them tools to begin to sift through that information and make some decisions quickly. So we're going in that direction at this point.
Mr. Thomas: Paul, can you illustrate for our listeners how DTIC is providing technical information to directly support the warfighter?
Mr. Ryan: Yes. That's been pretty important in DTIC's mission for the last three or four years now, just as it's been very important to the Department itself, support to the warfighter. The men and women in uniform around the globe deserve the best that those people working for the Department can deliver for them.
First, I'd like to talk about the fact that we're hosting a two-day workshop: the Rapid Technical Support for the Warfighter, and we're hoping to attract members from the COCOMs and the major commands throughout the Department to understand what their needs are, to explain to them what DTIC's capabilities are, and to reach a clientele that may not have used us or seen us in the current light, and in the current way we're organized presently.
As far as what we've been doing for a while, our support to the warfighter takes on a number of different venues. At the very basic level, we have reports in our collection that are directly useful to the warfighters. Things that come to mind are during the first Gulf War, there were apparently snakes of a variety in the desert, and servicemen and women needed to be able to identify as to which were poisonous and which were not. We had information in our collection that had color diagrams of these snakes, and we provided them to many of the troops going overseas.
And so there's a direct example of providing something that's got a direct relationship to the warfighter.
On a broader level, we operate the Information Analysis Center program. This is seven information analysis centers working in key concepts to the Department in very specific slices. This program is organized by virtue of a series of contracts that cover these seven areas, and the contracts are so structured that DTIC provides some basic core support.
But anybody within DoD, and other government agencies that needs their services can come through DTIC and put their task effort on these contracts with these information analysis centers and get some very specific work done. Some of the biggest customers for that are the COCOMS supporting the warfighters directly. Some examples: one of the information analysis centers actually worked up a mobile parts hospital, fabricating parts in theater.
They started out with one of these in Kuwait. They have now one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. About a year ago, the first one that was put in play had surpassed 10,000 parts made on the spot in theater to keep the equipment going. There's an example of direct support to the warfighter. The IACs themselves, if you look at their titles, gives you a pretty good indication of the kind of work they do. So we have survivability, vulnerability. We have chemical, bio, energetic materials, defense IAC. We have propulsion IAC. So we have a series of these IACs that directly relate to the warfighter.
And finally, I guess the third thing we do that directly supports the warfighter is that we manage well over 100 DoD websites, and many of these websites have information directly relevant to what's going on, to what soldiers, what commanders, what planners need in theater or throughout the world. By maintaining these websites on a customer basis for elements throughout the Department, soldiers, sailors, airmen, have access to this information.
Mr. Thomas: Paul, can you just share with the listeners, how do you determine when you need an information analysis center, or what is the criteria for establishing an information analysis center?
Mr. Ryan: By regulation, information analysis centers are created or deactivated by the Director of Defense Research and Engineering. In this case, it would be John Young. But in essence, how that happens is a need develops for such an analysis center, and is generally widely supported over a fair number of elements throughout the Department.
The latest one created was the Information Assurance Analysis Center. Security of networks, updating patch software, security practices -- all obviously within the last decade has been very important. And there became a groundswell that we need a centralized source that can help the Department manage those kinds of activities. So once that groundswell is established, once there's a clear statement of work and what the mission this IAC is supposed to do, it gets in the pipeline. Funding is established. And then at one point, DTIC then begins to pick up the funding in its budget line and the IAC moves forward.
Mr. Morales: Paul, you mentioned earlier some 100 or more websites that your organization hosts. To what extent do your services cut across all of DoD, and what are some of the more recent websites that you're hosting?
Mr. Ryan: The Component Information Support Directorate within DTIC is the outfit that works for me that is responsible for building these websites, and its name kind of talks about what they do. It's the component information. So we're generally open to requests to support websites from OSD and DoD components. We work joint projects with these efforts. The websites can range from publicly available to limited and classified portals, customized databases, anti-terrorism information.
So there's a wide range of reasons that we might be asked to help somebody with a website. We've certainly demonstrated our expertise through our long work with websites. And I think that also attracts customers. We've begun to work in and move in a direction of creating other opportunities for portals and websites to be used throughout the Department, collaborative work spaces for unique communications. We developed the tool called Teamworks that allows defined communities and ad hoc teams to share documents and discussions and calendars.
We've worked with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a strategic communication, a portal for the Chairman so that there's one message going out from the Chairman that everybody can see -- you know, here's the work and here's the words and here's what we're talking about, and here's the straight information on this subject. We've helped with technical and design support for the Joint Chiefs of Staff CIO in helping them develop decision support environment.
We're generally seen as experts in this area that can help somebody with some information, some expertise, and give them an idea -- once they let us know what their requirements are -- here are some considerations and options you might have. Right now, we're working with a U.K.-U.S. interoperability commission which allows the military staffs of both countries to collaborate on efforts in looking for opportunities for technical cooperation and collaboration.
Our websites run a gamut from things like the voting website where DoD, as the executive agents for overseas citizens, has to provide a means for those people to know, if they're going to do an absentee ballot, what the procedures are, where they get the forms. And so we've put that website up, not something somebody would typically think that DTIC would be involved in.
We've done work for the Iraqi situation in that we have supported an Iraqi virtual science library network where we have partnered with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the National Academy of Sciences, and 13 major journal publishers to provide an online access to the world's scientific literature based in journals that the Iraqis lost over a period of the last 20 years. So those scientists and engineers helping to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq have access to that latest information.
Our role was to support the website and the network and make all the pieces come together and go. We were glad to be a small part in something that is pretty important to the future of Iraq.
Mr. Morales: Paul, a little bit closer to home, could you tell us about your efforts in renovating the DTIC homepage? What's being done to enhance its navigation functionality and maintenance, and will the page have enhanced content management underlying it?
Mr. Ryan: We kind of had a very enlightening moment in a conversation several years ago with an individual that was well-acquainted with DTIC, left the government, went to work as a rehired annuitant, and came back and had trouble finding what he was looking for on our website. He knew all about us. He has written documents and scientific papers and submitted them to us, but he couldn't find anything, because we had just so much information on our website.
So that was like our "a-ha" moment, and it became clear to us that most people are coming to DTIC, the primary reason is I want to find information. So we redesigned our splash page, the DTIC.mil website so that when that comes up, it's got a block where you just fill in the question that you're hoping to find an answer for. And we've built a lot of things around that that gives you a number of options. You can search simply DTIC's scientific and technical collection for your subject.
We've also given you another option to -- by clicking over in the center of the page -- to search all of DoD's scientific and technical websites. The third option on the right-hand side of that page says, "I want to search every public DoD website for information in this subject area." So by virtue of giving a number of options for somebody to either drill down in their initial search, we've enhanced the ability for somebody to find the information.
I also had a somewhat ulterior motive. The internet search engines, the Googles, the Yahoos, the MSNs, were becoming very, very popular, and a lot of people go there, as they should, for some very basic, quick answers. However, it's my opinion that DoD personnel looking for complex answers to questions supporting research and development are not going to find them in those kinds of websites. So I needed to wean people away from that. So we kind of designed our new splash page to somewhat look like these internet search engines so there would be some familiarity.
And we've also kind of worked with some of these agencies, these internet search engines, so that when they crawl the publicly available documents within our collection, the DTIC documents will come to the top of their searches, so that again, a scientist who may go to an internet search engine and put in a DoD-related topic will see a DTIC database result coming out. And then I'm hoping that when they click on that full text and they come back to DTIC, they will stay in DTIC and get to the stuff they can't get to in internet search engines: limited information and classified information.
Mr. Morales: Great.
How is DTIC working with industry? We will ask Paul Ryan, administrator of the Defense Technical Information Center, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Paul Ryan, administrator of the Defense Technical Information Center.
Also joining us in our conversation from IBM is John Thomas.
Paul, DTIC's public STINET service was recognized in the January 2007 issue of the American Library Association's journal Choice as "well-designed, easily accessible," and the technical reports collection was "the gem of the site."
Could you tell us more about your Scientific and Technical Information Network Services, otherwise known as STINET?
Mr. Ryan: I'd be glad to. And essentially, there are three STINETs. We handle information from the publicly available level up through secret. So we have a STINET called Public STINET where the documents, the technical information that DoD creates, and is available to the public, is processed through us and made available to the public, as well as to our customers, on what we call Public STINET.
The second level up we call Private STINET. This is DoD's unclassified information, but it has some distribution limitations that doesn't make it available to the public, and that can range from available to DoD only down to available to U.S. government agencies and their contractors. And there's a series of distribution levels in between -- when you register for DTIC, we find out who you are and what your capabilities to receive our information, what your bona fides are, and we match that up against the information on our websites, and access to any of our information actually.
And the third STINET is what we call Secure STINET, and obviously it has the classified information. The further up that hierarchy you go, you start incorporating the levels below. So when you get to the Secure STINET, you will get the unclassified limited section also. And you will get the publicly available section. We find a lot of our customers will start out on the Public STINET looking for information, and then graduate their way up.
Mr. Morales: Now, the Independent Research and Development Database contains well over 170,000 descriptions of R&D projects initiated and conducted by Defense contractors independent of DoD's control and without direct DoD funding. One of DTIC's mandates is to prevent unnecessary or redundant research, thus eliminating the possible waste of taxpayer money, and ensuring that researchers are maximized in their productivity.
How are you working to foster relationships between DTIC and industry to further promote this sort of synergy?
Mr. Ryan: Industry is a key component in the Department's strive for new technologies and advancing research and development. At one point, the DoD lab structure probably did 80 percent of the research for DoD. That has kind of switched now, and 80 percent are done by private industry. Obviously a key player in supporting the Department. One of the ways we get that information is a DoD organization will have a contract with industry. It will result in a technical report that will come into our technical report collection and into our system.
Another aspect, though, is these industries, these companies are working on technology that -- not directly funded by DoD, does have interest to DoD -- and it's not only in DoD's interest to take advantage of that kind of leading technology that these companies are working on, but it's also to the advantage of the companies to be able to provide an outlet for that kind of work they're doing, not connected to a DoD contract.
One of the ways, therefore, for doing this is the Independent Research and Development program where industry has summaries of these projects. They go into a database -- one of the three databases we build at DTIC -- and provide synopses of that information, project descriptions. We make that available to DoD organizations only so that they can search that information to see what industry is doing in areas of research that is of interest to them.
And that kind of marries and maps to DoD's own kind of database research summaries of its ongoing projects. So by the time we put the two of them together, DoD's research summaries and the Independent Research and Development database, you have a look at what DoD is doing in the area of research and development, and you have an idea of what industry is doing. The idea is take a look at those things before you start a new project. I'm not saying you can't do your project, but maybe you can start your project at step seven instead of milestone one.
Mr. Thomas: Paul, as more and more information becomes available, DTIC has pursued more efficient ways to handle such volume. Would you tell us about your digitization efforts, transforming organizations from a paper-based work flow to an electronic environment? Specifically, how have those changes been implemented, what benefits have occurred since making this transition, and what are DTIC's future content management considerations?
Mr. Ryan: It's no surprise to anybody that more information is becoming available digitally every day. We passed the input of technical information -- technical reports to DTIC, we passed the halfway mark -- in other words, greater than 50 percent of the information coming into DTIC was in electronic form sometime in early 2005. So that's one avenue of bringing in the information and getting the information in an electronic digitized environment.
We scan that information and put it up on our websites so that the full text of a DoD technical report is available as soon as we process it and get it up. We also have a process to digitize going backwards. So if we get a request for a document that was created in 1993 which we do not have digitized, we will take the time right then to digitize it and add it to the collection. So that's a one-by-one request opportunity to work back in digitization. At the same time, we have never kept any paper of anything we've ever received.
When we got paper documents in the '50s and '60s, we created a microform image of it. So we have a million and a half documents in microfiche. For the past two or three years now, we have had a process where we are digitizing that microfiche, so again, the full text of the report can go up and be made available. So we're moving toward electronics. We began about 13 or 14 years ago with an electronic document management system when we knew electronic information was coming.
But we started so it handled our paper and electronic coming in, and we had a front-end to back-end process where a document came in and went right in to this electronic document management system. That system is pretty much coming to the end of its useful life. So we're in the process of now moving to the next version of that system, where it will be called the Technical Report Input Management System -- TRIMS --where it's going to be the next step up. So we again handle information in a more efficient manner because we realize the ability to provide information quickly and full-text is what our customers are looking for.
Mr. Thomas: Paul, what is the Information Assurance Technology Analysis Center, IATAC, and how does it support the research and operational communities within and outside of DoD?
Mr. Ryan: IATAC is one of the nine IACs I mentioned before, and it's focused on all aspects of information assurance technologies. It serves as a central authoritative source for information assurance and vulnerability data methodologies, models, analysis of merging -- all of the kinds of stuff you have to worry about for modern-day information systems critical to our nation's defense. It's a very highly recognized IAC. It gets a lot of business, not only from within the Department, but also from elements such as Homeland Security come to the IATAC looking for help and problem-solving for issues there.
Mr. Morales: Paul, I want to go back to one of the questions that John asked earlier about the volume of information you have. You've said that you've been in business now for over 60 years, and that the organization still has everything that has ever been entrusted to it, and a lot of this older material and information is still being used. Could you expand on that a bit more? What kind of older material is still being accessed, and for what purpose?
Mr. Ryan: It's surprising how often older material comes into play. You know, there are a lot of people that think, jeez, in today's environment, something 30 years old can't possibly be useful, you know? Why don't you just kind of get rid of that? Technology has certainly surpassed that. Well, our experience shows that that is not true.
I can remember when the first oil embargo occurred in the mid-70s, and long lines at gas stations. That's probably telling my age a bit, but one of the things that we had in our collection was documents captured during World War II that talked about the development of synthetic fuels. That collection became very popular in the mid-to-late '70s as people were going back to that kind of technology. There's other information in that collection that people just don't think of.
There have been some recent catastrophic landslides, mudslides in the Philippine Islands. Interestingly enough, the Army Corps of Engineers was one of the organizations that during World War II had done a lot of soundings of the data, and of the land, and of the volcanic rock. And that information was in our collection. The Corps of Engineers recognized that, and when they got a call for help to provide that, they came to DTIC and said, "would you get this stuff out of your collection, and make sure we can get that to the military men and women that were going to the Philippines to support that effort?"
So there's lots of information along those lines that's older information, but is always relevant information. Once we digitized it, once we put it in our collection, the major cost to do that is over and done with. And it really costs us pennies to keep the information in the collection. And I've always said, if somebody can tell me which reports are no longer any good, we'll be glad to extract them from the collection. But nobody's willing to put a finger on a report yet.
Mr. Morales: Nobody's willing to purge that one document that may come back. That's great.
Now, with respect to the folks at DTIC, I believe that more than 10 percent of the DTIC staff have library or information science degrees. What type of work could an information professional expect to do at DTIC, and in addition to yourself as the administrator, what are some of the other positions held by these individuals?
Mr. Ryan: It's very interesting, the kind of work that we have had the people with library science degrees or information science degrees do at DTIC. A number of them end up in the OPM, Office of Personnel Management, coding system as librarians, but a lot of people with library degrees also end up in the category of technical information specialists. And so they're somewhat scattered throughout DTIC in one of those two codes.
But we also find it's the versatility of these people that has made them so valuable. I mentioned how good we were with our early websites, and how the Department then asked us to do a number of those websites. I firmly believe that the fact we were so good is we didn't have the IT people design our websites, we had the librarians design our websites, because they knew how to organize information. They knew how to create navigation tools. They knew how to display it on a website.
Certainly, the IT people were crucial in building the infrastructure behind it, but it was those librarians that were the core group that made those things work, and I think that's why we ended up doing well over 100 websites for the Department. The people are in any number of jobs, from administrator -- although "librarian" isn't in my title now. I've got one of those high-level titles. But we have people with library degrees in senior management positions from component information support to running -- at one point, we had a librarian, a trained librarian who was running our financial systems, our financial directorate.
But to get much closer to what their degree is, they do reference work, they do database development, they help with acquisition and cataloging of technical reports, indexing of those systems, systems development, providing library services for DoD personnel in libraries throughout the Department. There are heavily involved in marketing DTIC services. There's not much that they can't do. And I think they are a very key resource to DTIC.
Mr. Morales: Fantastic.
What does the future hold for DTIC? We will ask Paul Ryan, administrator of the Defense Technical Information Center, to share with us when the conversation about management continues on The Business of Government Hour.
Mr. Morales: Welcome back to The Business of Government Hour. I'm your host, Albert Morales, and this morning's conversation is with Paul Ryan, administrator of the Defense Technical Information Center.
Also joining us in our conversation is John Thomas, associate partner in IBM's application innovation services.
Paul, with the evolution of the global threat environment and the many challenges associated with it, how do you envision DTIC and its information technology efforts evolving in, say, the next three to five years?
Mr. Ryan: Those of us in the federal government and certainly within DoD are looking to the future quite differently than we might have even a decade ago. I mentioned earlier the fact that we've just released our strategic plan that outlines where DTIC is going and how we're going to address the future in the next five years, 2007 to 2012. The technological superiority of the American warfighter ensures our national defense in this era of rapid technology changes, unconventional weapons proliferation, and terrorist threats.
And the driving force behind that edge, that technological edge, is DoD's robust Research Development Test and Evaluation, RDT&E, community. It's our goal to provide that community with the information collections and services and tools and processes that they need in order to perform that mission. The mission is going to be much quicker-paced in the future, decisions are going to be made quicker. There's a lot more information out there that has to be sifted through to find the right information that you're looking for.
We're going to face several challenges in implementing this information gateway to provide Defense-related information, and these challenges cover a broad range of issues, including translating the customer requirements into systems requirements. The technological selection and implementation and computer-human interface design all become key in reaching our goal of providing access to the information needed in the time frames that the customers are looking for.
Our strategic objectives focus on our strategies to meet these challenges, and our vision of strengthening the nation's defense through innovations and information discovery, analysis and dissemination will become a reality only if we can meet these challenges.
Mr. Morales: Paul, the Special Libraries Association has bestowed its Innovations in Technology award on DTIC. Would you tell us more about this award and the reasons it was bestowed on your organization?
Mr. Ryan: I was honored in 2005 to attend the Special Libraries Association annual conference, and accept the award on behalf of the DTIC staff. The award was provided to DTIC because of a longstanding recognition of our contribution to the application of technology to serve the needs of our customers, the U.S. defense community. The award went on to say that the contribution is especially noteworthy of recognition in this critical time of our Armed Forces as they face the challenges of combat in Iraq.
I believe that this award is just one more manifestation of the great work that the men and women of DTIC do day-in and day-out. This isn't our only award. We've been recognized on numerous occasions for being innovators, whether it's as far back as the National Performance Review of the '90s, popularly called Hammer Awards, to the Library of the Year nomination by the Federal Library And Information Center Committee, to the American Library Association article in its magazine Choice, talking about how well we do and how well we provide access to information on our websites.
Mr. Thomas: Paul, we also understand that you were selected as the CENDI chair for 2006 and 2007. Could you tell us more about CENDI, its purpose, and your role as its chair?
Mr. Ryan: Certainly. CENDI is an acronym that no longer makes much sense because it's about 20 years old. But it stood for what represented five federal agencies that gathered together bringing the heads of the information activities in those five federal agencies together to share information and processes and techniques in handling information. Today, CENDI has grown to an organization of 13 federal agencies, and those 13 federal agencies represent where 97 percent of the federal R&D budget is centered in those agencies.
So we bring together the information managers out of those federal agencies to share experiences, use coalescing of resources so that we can essentially advance where we're going and do things in a lot more efficient, unified, and cross-agency environment. One of the great successes of CENDI in the past couple of years is a website called science.gov, where all of these agencies provide their unclassified, publicly available information, and through a single search structure, you can simultaneously search all 13 agencies and bring back in a relevance rank search what you're looking for.
Simply put, CENDI's vision is to provide its member federal scientific and technical information agencies a cooperative enterprise where shared vision and challenges are addressed simultaneously, and the sum of accomplishments essentially is better than what any one individual agencies can accomplish. I was very happy to be elected chair a year ago, and at our last meeting, I was re-elected for another year.
Mr. Morales: Fantastic. Paul, earlier, we described DTIC as an information broker, and clearly part of your mission is to provide the general public with access to DoD's scientific and technical research. I'm curious, what types of information are provided to the average citizen?
Mr. Ryan: One technical correction there is that our mission is not to provide information to the general public. But by providing that information to our DoD customer and industry base, an easy by-product is to make that simultaneously available to the general public, and that just seems to us a judicious use of taxpayer funds.
After all, this information is public available, and it really doesn't cost us anything to make it available to the public. It's really amazing that when you see the needs of the public, and you see them coming in and looking at your website and you see the accesses and recognize that there's a big demand for what DoD is doing, and there's a big interest in what they're doing, and this is our way of providing access to that, it certainly saves and takes some pressure off a lot of individual DoD laboratories in necessarily themselves trying to provide that information to the public directly. We take that burden off for them.
So we don't go out and publicize and put a lot of money in making our information available to public. But we have taken the easy steps to make it available, and it gets a lot of regular use.
Mr. Morales: Paul, you've obviously have had a very successful career, going back to your days up in Picatinny. What advice would you give to a person who is perhaps considering a career in public service, say, in federal government?
Mr. Ryan: I think if you're considering a career in public service, if you were like me, it's because you had a desire to serve. You had a desire to give something back to the government. That is why I certainly got in to the federal government. And I also got in to a piece of the federal government, the Department of Defense, that does important critical national security work.
So that was my pull into the public sector, and in particular into working for the Department of Defense. I'm very proud of the DTIC staff and all they do to provide their public service. I mentioned earlier that many DTIC staff members have been there for quite a long time. I think from my perspective, the key to advancing in any organization is to understand not only what your job, your function in that organization is, but in ever-increasing circles around you.
I certainly think that's what helped me advance within DTIC and better understand what DTIC was all about by understanding what happened all throughout DTIC, and the more you understand about DTIC or any organization, I think the more you will enjoy your career and the more opportunity you have to advance.
I certainly believe that given my background and my profession, DTIC is the pinnacle of an organization within a very important department of the federal government, and I am very happy and very proud to be associated with DTIC in doing the work that I'm doing every day, and having the cadre of people that work for DTIC be as responsive as they are.
Mr. Morales: Fantastic career and fantastic organization.
Paul, unfortunately, we've reached the end of our time together this morning. I do want to thank you for fitting us into your busy schedule, but more importantly, John and I'd like to thank you for your dedicated service to our country across your federal career.
Mr. Ryan: Thank you very much, Albert. I appreciate the opportunity to be here. Thank you, John, for sitting in and inviting me here to talk a little bit about what I consider a very important piece of the Department of Defense.
If anybody is interesting in finding any more about DTIC, our website is www.dtic.mil. From there, you can get a lot of additional information about the things I've been talking about for the past hour, whether you're looking for a specific piece of technical information, whether you want to see DTIC's new strategic plan or the things we're doing for the future, that's the place to go and start.
Mr. Morales: Fantastic. Thank you.
This has been The Business of Government Hour, featuring a conversation with Paul Ryan, administrator of the Defense Technical Information Center.
My co-host has been John Thomas, associate partner in IBM's application innovation practice.
As you enjoy the rest of your day, please take time to remember the men and women of our armed and civil services abroad who can't hear this morning's show on how we're improving their government, but who deserve our unconditional respect and support.
For The Business of Government Hour, I'm Albert Morales. Thank you for listening.
This has been The Business of Government Hour. Be sure to join us every Saturday at 9:00 a.m., and visit us on the web at businessofgovernment.org. There, you can learn more about our programs and get a transcript of today's conversation.
Until next week, it's businessofgovernment.org.