DOD aims for better data management

The military is making extensive use of
new networking and communications technologies,
but is still struggling with interoperability
and the exponential growth of data, a
Defense Department official said last week at
the Milcom conference in Orlando, Fla.

One example of the progress and the shortcomings
of interoperability can be found in the
convergence of video, voice and data systems
that led to the successful June 2006 air strike
that killed al Qaeda terrorist Abu Musab al-
Zarqawi in Iraq, said Air Force Lt. Gen.
Michael Peterson, chief of warfighting integration
and chief information officer in the Office
of the Secretary of the Air Force. Although
commanders increasingly are able to make tactical
decisions from real-time air reconnaissance
and ground intelligence, 'the ability to do
dynamic planning isn't there,' he said.

Peterson said the average time it takes to respond
to time-sensitive targets, measured in
minutes, is in the low teens. However, '67 percent
of that time involves manual communication
because we're not fully interoperable.' On
the positive side, he cited the ability to identify
and redirect two F-16s in the closing minutes of
the decision to attack. But in ensuring those
aircraft were replaced in action, 'We still [had
to] have people entering data from yellow
sticky notes' instead of having drag-and-click
notification.

Common language

Part of the interoperability challenges the Air
Force and the Defense Department continue to
face lies with building common vocabularies
around the data that needs to be discovered, accessed
and exchanged across the '300 systems
we use,' Peterson said.

Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne has initiated
a series of working groups to build data
vocabularies, Peterson said. The efforts are expected
to speed up the process for identifying
the immunization status of troops about to be
deployed.

About the Author

Wyatt Kash served as chief editor of GCN (October 2004 to August 2010) and also of Defense Systems (January 2009 to August 2010). He currently serves as Content Director and Editor at Large of 1105 Media.

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