DOD needs to speed up global interoperability

Orlando ' The United States and its global allies are making progress in efforts to operate in unison with a common mission and access to a composite picture of operational conditions. However, complete integration between the information technology assets of the United States and its partners for coordinated command and control of many nations' armed forces might take nearly a decade, according to military leaders discussing the issue last week at the Milcom 2007 trade show.

To facilitate its ability to conduct military operations anywhere in the world in coordination with its dozens of allies, the Defense Department launched its Combined Communications-Electronics Board initiative in 2004, and while the effort is beginning to pay off, more could be done to speed up the process, according to participants in a panel discussion on joint interoperability issues.

Achieving interoperability requires that the military abandon its aversion to sharing information, and that takes time, although more openness with its allies 'will make us faster, more lethal and more survivable,' in our response to global conflicts, said discussion leader Vice Adm. Nancy Brown, Joint Staff director of the Navy's Command, Control, Communications and Computer Systems.

One element that's missing from the equation is a common procedure or standard for tagging data that coalition partners collect and store to give themselves more complete situational awareness, so the data isn't very useful to others in the coalition, said Rear Adm. Kendall Card, director of the Navy's control systems.

With 80 or so global coalition partners, the process for creating cross-domain solutions takes too long, usually from three to 13 months, said Army Brig. Gen. Mark Bowman. One approach that might help would be for DOD to establish a dedicated position of architect for data sharing, Bowman said.

More important than the exact solution for information sharing DOD chooses is the need for DOD to choose a solution and pursue it, said Air Force Brig. Gen. David Warner, director of command and control programs at the Defense Information Systems Agency.

In a recent initiative, DISA has been tasked with modifying its Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System, set up to coordinate coalition operations, to make it even more transparent to participants. Coalition members' system will be physically separate through 2009, Warner said, then will be partially connected during a transition period lasting from 2010 until 2013 and won't be fully integrated until 2016.

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