Can DOD transform itself?

AFTER THE REVIEW: Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says transformation 'is not a goal for tomorrow' but must begin immediately.

All the services are putting money into new IT programs to meet the review's goals, Defense CIO John Stenbit says.

Henrik G. DeGyor

'Transformation must be embraced in earnest today,' Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld says.

Army SPC, Greg Heath

Defense chieftains say success hinges on data management

For Defense Department officials, if anything confirmed the IT-dominant direction outlined a year ago in the Quadrennial Defense Review, it was the Afghanistan campaign. Crossing bleak and craggy terrain, U.S. special operations forces riding on horseback with Afghan Northern Alliance fighters used satellite telephones and portable laser target designators to guide B-52 strikes on Taliban targets.

'There were lots of examples in Afghanistan of the use of information causing old weapons systems to be used in new ways,' Defense CIO John Stenbit said. 'So I think the principles of the QDR are more soundly in people's minds today than they were a year ago.'

The department's vision in the 2001 QDR can be captured in one word: transformation.

'Transformation is not a goal for tomorrow but an endeavor that must be embraced in earnest today,' Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in his forward to the QDR.

The QDR, delivered to Congress last September, encapsulates the department's overall strategic plans every four years.

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, director of the Office of Force Transformation created by the 2001 QDR, described transformation as a broad spectrum of technology, organizations, culture and process.

'If we do not succeed in transforming from the industrial age to an information age, then all of our other efforts in transformation will not likely bear fruit,' Cebrowski told the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier this year.

Although two of the six transformational goals outlined in the QDR expressly embrace IT objectives'developing a departmentwide, interoperable IT architecture and protecting information systems from attack'IT underlies and facilitates all of the QDR's goals.

Best way possible

For example, enhancing space systems and supporting infrastructures, and providing persistent surveillance, tracking and engagement of the enemy at various ranges and in all weather and terrains are objectives that require the support of IT.

'I don't draw any distinctions among the goals' with regard to the use of IT, Stenbit said. Overall, 'the goal is to use information to the best effect.'

The cornerstone of DOD's strategic plan for transformation is network-centric warfare, Cebrowski said.

The QDR noted that the networking of 'a multitude of platforms, weapons, sensors and command and control entities' yield a common view of the battlefield.

The QDR also acknowledged that depending on networked systems creates new vulnerabilities. Defense networks have to be protected from attacks.

As the QDR's goals have crystallized over the last year, buttressed by the IT successes of the Afghan war, officials across DOD are rushing to embrace transformation with greater fervor, Stenbit said.

He said recent budget planning for fiscal 2004 illustrates the willingness of DOD brass to reach the QDR's goals. 'All of the services are taking more money from 'old think' and putting it into 'new think' than I have ever seen before,' Stenbit said.
But there are still hurdles to transformation, observers said.

One is simply balancing the acquisition of new technology and the retention of old technology, which has to be maintained and used as new systems roll out.

'We can only use what we've got, so we need more of what we've got,' Stenbit said. 'So there is a tension between how fast we move forward and how much we invest in the past. As we do the transition, what risks are we willing to take on?'

The extent of the department's legacy systems presents another problem.

'There is such a huge legacy out there,' said Anthony Valletta, director of the command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) systems business unit at SRA International Inc. of Fairfax, Va., and Defense's former acting assistant secretary for C3I.

'It's one of the problems the Navy faces with the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet program,' he said. 'Every time they go into an installation, even with the new architecture and new technology, the biggest stumbling block they find is this myriad of stuff that NMCI may have to interface with or continue to operate.'

Dave Wennergren, Navy deputy CIO for e-business and security, agreed.

'The legacy systems are a challenge,' he said. 'There are literally tens of thousands of legacy applications. With an organization as big as the Navy Department, with 800,000 people spread around the world, you can imagine all the applications that grow and flourish over the course of time.'

As it shifts to NMCI, the Navy is taking a hard look at legacy systems.

Web's the way to go

'We're trying to look system-by-system and application-by-application at what we have and whether a system or application is still the right answer,' Wennergren said. 'What we're finding is that so many of these Web-based [applications] are the right answer.'

'This is going to retire a whole lot more stuff than year 2000 did,' he added.

Another major problem is the lack of interoperability among many Defense systems.

'That's a key issue,' Valletta said. 'No matter what the [QDR goals] are, they all come down to one subject: joint interoperability from an IT perspective.'

The department's CIO office is currently developing an enterprise architecture for its Global Information Grid, which will boost interoperability across the organization.

Bandwidth is another issue. 'We need to create a network that doesn't have bandwidth in the way,' Stenbit said. 'That is a big deal.'

'Bandwidth has become increasingly important as more and more sophisticated sensors are brought online and as significantly more data needs to be moved around to support operations,' said Arthur Johnson, senior vice president for corporate strategic development at Lockheed Martin Corp.
The department is addressing the bandwidth problem in its Global Information Grid Bandwidth Expansion initiative, which will 'explode' the bandwidth capacity of the Defense Information Systems Network, said John Osterholz, Defense director of architecture and interoperability.

'In the end, the biggest challenge'and this now is sort of clich'is cultural change,' Wennergren said. 'I spend far more of my time helping folks across the NMCI team deal with cultural change and process re-engineering than I do about the insertion of technology. A lot of this stuff is only 10 percent about the new technologies and 90 percent about trying to figure a better way to do business.'

'You need to focus your efforts on how you can use the new technologies as you reinvent your processes to do things better rather than just keep funding the initiatives that you know and love,' he added.

Cebrowski, the department's transformation guru, couldn't agree more.

'What we are attempting is incredibly difficult,' he said. 'Some people don't understand how incredibly messy, contentious and filled with uncertainty previous transformations have been. Military history is rife with examples of cultural and institutional impediments to transformational change.'

But he added: 'To date we have barely scratched the surface of what is possible.'


  • automated processes (Nikolay Klimenko/

    How the Army’s DORA bot cuts manual work for contracting professionals

    Thanks to robotic process automation, the time it takes Army contracting professionals to determine whether prospective vendors should receive a contract has been cut from an hour to just five minutes.

  • Russia prying into state, local networks

    A Russian state-sponsored advanced persistent threat actor targeting state, local, territorial and tribal government networks exfiltrated data from at least two victims.

Stay Connected