Defense reliance on IT to stay unchanged

Information superiority will serve as the "backbone of military innovation" for U.S. forces well into the next century according to a long-awaited top-level review of the Defense Department released last week.

Although the Quadrennial Review (QDR) pared back the force structure of the three services and cut back purchases of advanced aircraft it solidly backed information technologies as key "to the transformation of our military capabilities the so-called revolution in military affairs."

Secretary of Defense William Cohen defended IT. "Modernization of our forces depends on a strong backbone of command control surveillance and reconnaissance systems " he said.

The Electronic Industries Association pegs total command control communications computers and intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems spending at about $50 billion last year and predicts continued growth based on the emphasis it received in the QDR. George Shaw vice president for strategy at Hughes Information Technology Systems and a member of the EIA forecast team said the C4ISR pot included "about $10 billion for IT $13 billion to $14 billion for [command control and communications] and about $28 billion for intelligence."

Duane Andrews a senior vice president of Science Applications International Corp. who served as assistant secretary of Defense for command control communications and intelligence in the Bush administration called information systems "critically important."

"The single most important thing you could do to maintain capabilities while reducing force structure is to build up C4ISR " Andrews said. "For every $2 you take out of weapons you can probably put $1 into C4ISR and still maintain equal capability."

Still the QDR made it clear that the Pentagon does not intend to throw dollars at IT systems but rather to continue "to build an integrated complex set of systems especially a common C4ISR architecture to achieve dominant battlespace awareness."

A knowledgeable industry source said the Defense Information Systems Agency will end up with a core role in C4ISR because the Global Command and Control System "is the glue that will hold everything together."

While DISA should have an expanded mission with C4ISR the QDR as expected called for a consolidation of the 16 mainframe processing centers operated by the agency.

The internal QDR Infrastructure Panel report obtained by FCW bluntly stated that "all megacenter functions should be transferred to the private sector." Just shrinking the number of DISA megacenters to six would save $980 million the report estimated. But the report added "There is intense congressional interest in the megacenters and it makes a great deal of difference which centers are closed and which remain operative."

DISA operates a megacenter in New Orleans which is represented by Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Hughes' Shaw agreed with the report's assessment saying "It's difficult to make infrastructure cuts [such as this] due to politics."

The panel also recommended that the National Imagery and Mapping Agency "outsource map development and production to the extent possible [and] develop and assess a local production capability for customized maps."

But NIMA operates a large map-printing facility in St. Louis Mo. the home district of Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) chairman of the House Democratic Policy Committee.

"The NIMA [printing plant] building is named after Gephardt " a source said. "What do you think the chances of that getting closed down are?"

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