Change urged in law guiding military buys

The Defense Department's top adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on information technology issues says the federal law that entitles the military services to equip their own forces should be revised to ensure that the services buy systems capable of sharing data.

At present, the services are permitted under Title 10 — the portion of the U.S. Code that defines the roles and missions of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the four military services — to equip and train their own forces. But that means when push comes to shove, no one — not the Pentagon, not Congress and not the White House — can tell the services what to buy. That independence can result in interoperability problems, said Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Kellogg Jr., who has been director of command, control, communications and computers for DOD's Joint Chiefs of Staff since October. But he was careful not to lay blame, insisting that interoperability problems are the result of good people working with a faulty acquisition system.

"You fix the acquisition system, and then you say that if it doesn't work in the joint environment, you don't buy it. I believe you have to modify" Title 10, Kellogg said. "If I were king for a day, I would modify the law so that when it comes to information systems, you focus [acquisition] more centrally in the Joint Staff, or somebody has control over it so that you can focus more on interoperability."

Some critics contend that Title 10 authority contributes to problems with so-called interoperability, the ability of information systems to share data. Without interoperability, the services cannot communicate effectively on the battlefield and coordinate their warfighting efforts.

Despite Kellogg's support for changes in Title 10, not all are convinced, including one of his bosses, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "At this point, the answer is probably "no,' " Myers said. "I don't think legislative change is needed, but I don't know how much more patience folks will show."

Kellogg cited the Global Command and Control System as one victim of Title 10. GCCS provides automated support command and control operations around the world, and the Pentagon estimates the total life-cycle cost at $3 billion.

Kellogg described GCCS as "one that probably gets me more frustrated than any other," because it "is not fully interoperable." The services have built their own systems, he said, focusing more on making them compatible with existing systems in their own service rather than on joint interoperability.

"If they work together, and some of them do, it's almost by — I don't mean to use this as too strong a term because it's kind of tongue-in-cheek — but it's almost by accident," Kellogg said.

But he promised that for GCCS, at least, relief is coming. "It will be fixed on my watch," he vowed.

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