GAO report chides Defense for lack of progress in C4ISR systems

Defense Department efforts to build a systems architecture to achieve battle
information superiority are far from being realized, a General Accounting Office report
said.


“Achieving information superiority will be expensive and complex,” GAO said
in its report, Defense Information Superiority: Progress Made, But Significant Challenges
Remain.


DOD estimates that it will spend $43 billion each year over the next five years on
command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
systems to achieve information superiority.


Integrating the C4ISR systems is difficult because DOD must tackle thousands of
decentralized networks managed by different services and Defense agencies, GAO said.


But DOD is “firmly committed to achieving information superiority and is making
significant progress toward achieving that goal,” Arthur Money, the senior civilian
official in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control,
Communications and Intelligence, argued in a written response to the report.


In fact, the recent reorganization of the ASD(C3I) office was meant to better focus
efforts in the area of information superiority, Money said.


In a 1996 document, Joint Vision 2010, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
defined information superiority as “the capability to collect, process and
disseminate an uninterrupted flow of information while exploiting or denying an
adversary’s ability to do the same.”


But one of the key challenges facing DOD is the development of a single C4ISR
architecture, an elusive, three-decades-old goal, GAO said.


The C4ISR has three subarchitectures: operational, systems and technical.


Only the technical subarchitecture has been established by the Defense Information
Systems Agency. The Joint Staff’s C4 Systems Directorate and the services and unified
commands have yet to develop the operational and systems subarchitectures, GAO said.


DOD’s experience with two C4ISR systems critical to information
superiority—the Global Command and Control System and the Joint Tactical Radio System
(JTRS)—indicates the challenges ahead, GAO said.


“In the absence of a C4ISR architecture, DOD has had mixed success in developing
and fielding GCCS, its premier strategic C4ISR system,” GAO said.


“Although some its features are well liked by users, GCCS has encountered problems
… with some key functions that cause the system to perform less effectively than
expected,” GAO said.


Key capabilities, such as GCCS’ operational planning and situational awareness
functions, have experienced problems, GAO said.


GCCS, DOD’s principal command and control system deployed at more than 700 sites
worldwide, also has potential year 2000 problems that could cause systems failures, GAO
said.


“Similarly, requirements for JTRS have not been defined in the context of an
established C4ISR architecture,” the report said.


JTRS is a DOD program to develop a single family of software programmable radios to
replace more than 700,000 service-unique and incompatible radio systems. Money in late
August restricted the services from outsourcing tactical radio development and
acquisition.


Money will let the services buy a limited number of service-unique radios until the
first JTRS radios are available around 2002.


DOD’s ability to protect its C4I systems against attack also is vital to
information superiority. But DOD’s information assurance needs are not being met in
key areas, GAO said in a June letter to the House National Security Subcommittee on
Military R&D.


A November 1996 Defense Science Board task force found that networked DOD systems are
under increased risk of cyberattack, a development that would make it hard for DOD to
perform its missions.


GAO recommended DOD establish milestones for completing the C4ISR architecture and
information assurance program and ensure that compliance is achieved. Money said he agreed
with the recommendations.  

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