Pentagon revamps systems tests

The Pentagon is accelerating a sweeping initiative to improve joint operations

among the services by ensuring that their key systems can exchange information


The initiative will overhaul the Defense Department's process for ensuring

interoperability among command and control systems that the services use

to manage and exchange information supporting tactical operations, logistics,

intelligence and other functions.

"This is probably the largest singular change in the [command, control,

communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance]

realm in the last 10 years," said John Osterholz, the Pentagon's director

of architecture and interoperability. "It may not sound like an exciting

story when you're talking about re-engineering a process, but this is a

radical transformation."

The initiative brings together officials from across the Pentagon, including

its chief information officer; the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the undersecretary

of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics; the director of operational

test and evaluation; and the Joint Forces Command.

The department has been working quietly over the last 18 months to pull

together the key elements of the initiative. The deputy secretary of Defense

provided funding for the initiative to begin in fiscal 2002, but Osterholz

said the effort is too important to wait and that the Pentagon is pulling

together enough funds to begin in 2001.

The Pentagon's plan calls for $25 million to be set aside for fixing

interoperability with existing systems from 2002 to 2007 so that officials

can bypass DOD's cumbersome multiyear budget process.

The department hopes to avoid such problems in the future by improving

the process it uses to assess command and control systems before putting

them in the field. The Pentagon plans to invest $100 million over the next

four years to run a Joint Development Engineering Plant — essentially a

test bed for simulating interoperability scenarios.


A Case for Change

Pentagon documents identify key reasons for overhauling the testing

process, including:

* Network-centric operations require unprecedented attention to interoperability.

* Interoperability is a key performance parameter for systems being

purchased and developed, which requires a focus on system architecture.

* Large information technology services contracts represent a unique

opportunity for ensuring interoperability.


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