The Joint Chiefs take aim at IT

The Joint Chiefs take aim at IT

Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, released the report Joint Vision 2020 last week.

Plan re-emphasizes joint systems' role

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

In its new vision for the future of warfighting, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have set an aggressive agenda for marshaling information technology and making it march to the tune of joint-forces commanders.

Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, last week released the report Joint Vision 2020. Cross-services systems interoperability, computer network defense and attack, information superiority and improved logistics received priority attention in the 45-page report.

'Information, information processing and communications networks are at the core of every military activity,' the guidance said. 'However, the creation of information superiority is not an end in itself' because joint forces receive 'a competitive advantage only when it is effectively translated into superior knowledge and decisions.' For instance, the Joint Chiefs called on DOD to develop Web-accessible logistics systems so warfighters could easily tap information about when to expect supply deliveries, a problem that plagued the services during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield.

Newest version

The document, posted on the Web at, updates the last vision statement from the Joint Chiefs. They issued Joint Vision 2010 in 1996.

James Buckner, chief information officer for the Army Material Command, said the IT bent of the new report is 'no surprise.'

'The need for the future is to make sure that DOD's efforts maintain high visibility and are funded at the appropriate levels,' he said. 'The people we need must be astute in security fundamentals, strong in configuration management and standards, but most of all, they must be creative and flexible enough to cope with the ever-changing threats from those who would steal or damage our information assets.'

The Joint Chiefs left open the possibility of new organizations and job classifications to aid with computer network defense and attack. In the coming years 'information operations may evolve into a separate mission area requiring the services to maintain appropriately designed organizations and trained specialists,'the report said.

The nature of information operations makes it difficult to do battle damage assessment, and information operations can range from 'physical destruction to psychological operations to computer network defense,' the Joint Chiefs concluded.

Commanders will conduct information operations 'whether facing an adversary during a conflict or engaged in humanitarian relief operations,' the report said. 'Because the ultimate target of information operations is the human decision-maker, the joint force commander will have difficulty accurately assessing the effects of those operations.'

DOD brass set action plan
'By 2001: Implement logistics systems to 'assess customer confidence from end to end of the logistics chain using customer wait-time metric.'

'By 2002: Deploy time-definite delivery capabilities using a system that sets priorities based on each customer's required delivery date.

'By 2004: Implement fixed and deployable identification technologies and systems that provide accurate asset visibility.

'By 2004: Implement a shared Web environment for early deploying forces so commanders can make timely logistics decisions.

'By 2006: Implement a shared Web environment for remaining forces.

The Global Information Grid initiative will help Defense achieve information superiority, the report said.

Through GIG, Defense wants to create an interoperable, secure network of networks connecting everything from sensors and satellites to deployed soldiers, sailors and Marines.

'Realization of the full potential of these changes requires not only technological improvements but the continued evolution of organizations and doctrine, and the development of relevant training to sustain a comparative advantage in the information environment,' the report said.

The Joint Chiefs also reiterated that technology is not the be-all and end-all of warfighting: 'We must also remember that information superiority neither equates to perfect information nor does it mean the elimination of the fog of war.'

Interoperability is not just a matter of making communications systems work together or sharing information and using common logistics terms, the report said.

Instead, DOD leaders must 'overcome the barriers of organizational culture and differing priorities,' through 'training and education, experience and exercises, cooperative planning and skilled liaison at all levels of the joint force.'

Commanders must ensure that their systems work with those of more technically advanced allies, 'enabling them to interface and share information in order to operate effectively with U.S. forces at all levels,' the report said. 'However, we must also be capable of operating with allies and coalition partners who may be technologically incompatible'especially at the tactical level.'

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