Defense review focuses on IT

Defense review focuses on IT

Donald Rumsfeld

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's Quadrennial Defense Review calls for increased spending on technology and a focus on the likely new battlegrounds of the 21st century'including space and cyberspace.

The QDR, delivered to Congress on Sept. 30, looks at IT two ways'as a critical national asset requiring military protection and as an enabler for transforming the military.

'New information and communications technology hold promise for networking highly distributed joint and combined forces and for ensuring that such forces have better situational awareness,' the report says.

Much of the review had already been completed before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

But it has many references to Sept. 11, suggesting the report was hastily rewritten.

Rumsfeld said the attacks reinforced the need for the military to shift its focus to how an adversary would fight, rather than who the adversary is or where a war would occur.

'The United States must identify the capabilities required to deter and defeat adversaries who will rely on surprise, deception and asymmetric warfare to achieve their objective,' the report says.

The review makes IT a top priority. The QDR envisions smaller, more distributed forces that can be combined and recombined in various ways, depending on the situation. To achieve this transformation, Rumsfeld calls for six initiatives, two of which explicitly emphasize IT.

One initiative is to guarantee information assurance while under attack. Another calls for supplying secure, interoperable and high-capacity IT and communications to deployed forces.

'Information technology will provide a key foundation for the effort to transform U.S. armed forces for the 21st century,' the report says.

Much of the QDR will be good news for contractors. It directs the Defense Department to ask industry for help.

An industry call

DOD will turn to industry for 'new ways to move ideas from the laboratory to the operating forces, to tap the results of innovations developed in the private sector and to blend government and private research where appropriate,' the report says. Rumsfeld called the move a quiet revolution that will capitalize on the advances of science and technology.

Ray Bjorklund, vice president of Federal Sources Inc., a consulting firm in McLean, Va., noted that the review calls for better risk management by DOD, which is a boost for the IT community.

'IT as an enabler is a way of mitigating and addressing the risks of a new type of threat,' Bjorklund said. 'If you can really figure out a way to exploit all that information with IT and intelligence, you can mitigate your risks.'

The review, a thorough look at military strategy that Congress mandates the Pentagon to complete every four years, notes that DOD needs a better handle on emerging technologies and to develop stronger, more secure information infrastructures. Rumsfeld mentioned the rapidly advancing fields of sensors, information processing, precision guidance and biotechnology.

The review calls for increased procurement and a 3 percent annual funding increase for Defense science and technology programs'measures that Delores Etter, former deputy undersecretary for science and technology, openly welcomed.

Etter, now a professor in the electrical engineering department at the Naval Academy, said science programs were always among the first victims of budget-cutting because of the time it took to develop new technologies. 'It was easier to take money out of the longer-term things for things that are needed today,' Etter said. 'If you look at the capabilities we have today'stealth, night vision'they all came out of investments made 15 to 20 years ago. It's important you have a very long-term commitment to science and technology.'

In the space age

Rumsfeld also predicted that conflicts would develop in space and cyberspace between the United States and rogue states.

'This poses the danger that states hostile to the United States could significantly enhance their capabilities by integrating widely available off-the-shelf technologies into their weapon systems and armed forces,' the report states.

'Space and information operations have become the backbone of networked, highly distributed commercial civilian and military capabilities,' the report says. 'States will likely develop offensive information operations and be compelled to devote resources to protecting critical information infrastructure from disruption, either physically or through cyberspace.'

The review also highlighted Defense's need to improve its recruiting and retention rates and its need to outsource more support positions as part of the overall military transformation.

To some observers, the QDR didn't go far enough in addressing the country's post-Sept. 11 military needs.

'I think there's going have to be a much greater emphasis on surveillance and intelligence gathering and on systems that can bring all of that information together,' said Phil Coyle, a senior adviser with the Center for Defense Information in Washington.

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