Military missions are increasingly dependent on IT

SALT LAKE CITY'In Operation Iraqi Freedom, an estimated 70 percent to 80 percent of all mission capabilities depended on IT in one way or another, according to retired Air Force Lt. Col. Scott B. Dufaud.

A decade earlier, in the first Gulf War, that percentage was 20 percent to 40 percent.

Those statistics show that IT has moved into military operations as never before, Dufaud told attendees at the Software Technology Conference here.

Still, IT systems are not valued the same way weapons systems are, and they fail to receive the same level of attention and respect from high-ranking commanders'until they fail, added Lynn Robert Carter, a senior member of the technical staff at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

Software failures often take time'months, years or even decades'to make themselves visible, he said. "The everyday IT experience is just not viewed as mission-critical and is not managed that way."

"It's easy to see how the pointy end of the spear, combat stuff, those visible military apps, are viewed as mission-critical," added Dufaud, a principal in Serena Software Inc.'s Management Consulting Group. "But the development and deployment of IT systems that support bombs on targets, in our opinion, is the pointy end of the spear too."

Although it often takes a long time for an IT system to develop to the point when it can accomplish its mission, cultural problems increase as software applications become more complex and at the same time the pool of military software experts dwindles, Dufaud said.

The Air Force and other military agencies need more training, real-time scenarios, and coaching and mentoring, Dufaud said.

"At transition and adopting new technologies, we're just not very good," Dufaud said. "Does the Air Force truly view IT and its resources as mission-critical? To tell you the truth, I didn't see it."

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