DOD mulls network coordination

Communications leader pushes for the creation of joint net acquisitions

Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert Shea, the Joint Staff's director of command, control, communications and computer systems, believes a Joint Acquisition Command for Networks (JACN) would help solve the problem of the military's disjointed systems.

Shea said a joint acquisition command could be responsible for developing and fielding all the components of the Global Information Grid (GIG), which consists of systems ranging from tactical vehicle and manpack radios to global high-speed data circuits.

Speaking last week at the annual AFCEA International TechNet Conference in Washington, D.C., Shea said he has been pushing for a joint acquisition command within the Joint Staff. Although the concept has significant support, he said, the services have reached no consensus on the idea.

Army Lt. Gen. Steven Boutelle, the service's chief information officer, said he supports JACN and believes DOD officials need to dramatically change the way they acquire and deploy network systems.

Many different program offices throughout the four services manage piecemeal acquisitions of GIG components, often developing similar systems with minor differences. Shea said that process makes no sense because the Army and Marine Corps have similar requirements for and uses of battlefield communications networks.

Shea wants to try a simpler approach. "What's the right way to field joint capabilities?" he asked. "Put one person in charge."

John Garing, director for strategic planning and information and CIO at the Defense Information Systems Agency, said DISA supports the joint network idea, which he said Shea has been developing for more than a year. Garing said DOD needs more coordination for the procurement of network systems and the management of that process. Garing added that DISA supports the JACN concept, regardless of whether the agency has a lead role in the new command.

Bernie Skoch, a consultant at Suss Consulting, confirmed that GIG is disjointed because DOD is trying to build complete networks from individual parts provided by the services, each of which has separate projects and funding lines. A retired Air Force brigadier general who served as director of network services at DISA until he retired earlier this year, Skoch said that although the agency supplies joint long-term networks, the services are still developing and building their own systems. And interoperability suffers.

Some legal changes may be necessary before JACN could come to fruition. Title 10 of the U.S. Code, which provides acquisition authority to the services but not the Joint Staff or joint commands, may need to be modified to establish JACN, Skoch said.

Bob Steele, an industry consultant, said that instead of establishing a new organization, the Pentagon should marshal the resources of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration, led by Linton Wells.

Anthony Valletta, senior vice president for defense at SRA International, said he supports the concept of a JACN. But such an organization would need to jointly manage requirements in addition to acquisitions, he said. Valletta, who served as DOD's top command, control and communications civilian in the mid-1990s, said JACN officials would need to carefully follow joint requirements to ensure that changing demands do not sink a program. n

Seeking JTRS options

Lt. Gen. Robert Shea, director of command, control, communications and computer systems for the Joint Staff, confirmed that the group is examining alternatives to the troubled and delayed $39 billion Joint Tactical Radio System.

Shea said the Joint Staff is also considering slimmed-down fielding options for JTRS, which has been hit by stop-work or show-cause orders on two major projects.

JTRS seeks to develop software-defined radios that use waveforms for a wide variety of communications — from simple, tactical voice communications to high-data-rate systems. At the moment, the Joint Staff is trying to determine the most important waveforms for the radio, Shea said.

— Bob Brewin

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