Report: C4I heavy on vulnerability, thin on interoperability

The Defense Department has done too little to protect its command, control,
communications, computers and intelligence infrastructure against attacks, a recent
National Research Council study concluded. Nor has DOD succeeded in making C4I systems
interoperable across the military services.


The study, requested by Congress in the Defense Authorization Act of 1996, recommends
that DOD’s leaders place a higher value on defensive activities, retool their
acquisition practices and set more practical standards for interoperability.


“DOD is changing, but not fast enough to exploit the opportunity for information
superiority,” said the March 22 report, Realizing the Potential of C4I: Fundamental
Challenges.


The goal of information superiority, set by the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Joint
Vision 2010, is compelling but unrealized, the council said. It recommended that the
secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff give higher priority to making the
services’ C4I activities interoperable.


DOD spokeswoman Susan Hansen said the recommendations are in line with efforts already
under way to improve C4I security. She did not respond to the report’s
recommendations about interoperability and changes in leadership culture.


The council’s Computer Science and Telecommunications Board wrote the report after
holding DOD site visits and briefings in 1997 and 1998.


Current C4I strategies for a Joint Technical Architecture and common environment are
inadequate and not being fully executed, the council found.


Because of growing reliance on information technology, the report said, “it is
urgent that DOD greatly improve the execution of its information systems security
responsibilities.”


Cyberattacks are easier, faster and cheaper than cyberdefense, the council said. But
the military services value attack over defense and are trained to take offensive rather
than defensive actions.


The report concluded that “a culture of information security is required
throughout the organization.”  


About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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