Policies hinder uniting of nations' networks

Senior Pentagon officials last week singled out rigid security policies

and lack of planning as two key lessons from the war in Kosovo that pose

the greatest challenge to improving interoperability among allied forces'

computer systems.

Although the communications support provided by U.S. and allied units

during Operation Allied Force was a "tremendous success," inflexible U.S.

network security policies and a failure to properly train some forces hampered

the overall war effort, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Croom Jr., the

newly appointed vice director of command, control, communications and computer

systems for the Pentagon's Joint Staff.

Croom, who served as the director of C4 for the U.S. European Command

during the war, said that the U.S. policy of prohibiting the transmission

of NATO-classified information across U.S. networks posed "the largest and

toughest issue of all" during the war.

"U.S. policy-makers are not flexible enough to push that issue to the

limit," said Croom, speaking June 20 at the TechNet International 2000 expo,

sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

"It costs a lot of money to build a private network. It's absolutely appalling

to me to have a policy like this," he said, emphasizing that U.S. networks

are more than secure enough to handle any NATO-classified data.

Croom is not alone in his criticism. In its June 5 report on lessons

learned from the war in Kosovo, the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense

also underscored the need for greater "transparency" between allied partners.

"Improving secure information and communications technology [within

the U.K. military and with coalition partners]...to enable the passage of

intelligence and targeting information...is a major concern," the U.K. report

stated.

Another hurdle was the use of some cutting-edge technology systems.

The systems posed new challenges for planners but did not come with documented

policies and procedures, Croom said.

For example, a requirement to transmit video and imagery through a 6

megabits/ sec data pipe from the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle in Kosovo

to Beale Air Force base in California for analysis and then back again to

commanders in Kosovo "presented a tremendous interoperability problem because

the pipes weren't there," Croom said.

The United States also deployed a unit to Tirana, Albania, to conduct integration

work at a Defense Department Strategic Tactical Entry Point network site,

but Croom said the unit had not been trained for how the military planned

to use it in combat.

Army Brig. Gen. John McElwee, director of C4 systems for the Joint Forces

Command, said one of the major barriers to interoperability stems from the

multitude of tactical data link languages throughout DOD. McElwee showed

the audience at TechNet several slides depicting dozens of tactical communications

systems that use different languages. "We actually, physically can't talk,

[and] it's a language problem," he said.

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