IT to play critical role in DOD transformation

DOD Quadrennial Defense Review report

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Technology will be part of the foundation in future Defense Department operations—for both warfighters and administrators—as the Pentagon shifts focus to a "capabilities-based" approach in defending the United States, according to the latest version of the Quadrennial Defense Review.

Defense analysts say the QDR, a congressionally mandated, comprehensive review of DOD military strategy and force structure conducted every four years, illustrates how information technology is increasingly integrated across the department.

The 71-page report peppers technology through its pages, rather than relegating it to the side.

Specifically, IT surfaces in two QDR operational goals: viewing IT as a critical asset that needs to be defended in and of itself, and also as the enabler for bringing about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's proposed transformation of U.S. armed forces (see box).

"Information technology will provide a key foundation for the effort to transform U.S. armed forces for the 21st century," the report states.

The document, unveiled Oct. 1, makes clear that the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon represent a new type of war — a less predictable one. The QDR proposes to shift DOD's focus to a "capabilities-based" approach to defense, where the goal is preparation based on how an enemy might fight rather than on whom the enemy might be and where a war might occur.

The report contains "less uncertainty about being uncertain," said a senior DOD official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Although the QDR was largely written before the attacks, Michael Kush, senior systems engineer for Vector Research Inc., who leads the Government Electronics and Information Technology Association's annual review of Defense IT spending, said the QDR addresses many of the issues arising from them.

"Even before the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, the senior leaders of the Defense Department set out to establish a new strategy for America's defense that would embrace uncertainty and contend with surprise, a strategy that [is] premised on the idea that to be effective abroad, America must be safe at home," the introduction to the QDR says.

It will be important for DOD to hone its capabilities—including information resources—to prevail over current challenges and dissuade future threats, the QDR states.

"If we can't do IT in this department, we're never going to get where we want to go," the senior Pentagon official said. "We have to learn how to do it—we have to learn to do it in a way that gives all of our combatant commanders, as well as the senior political and military leadership, a common operational or strategic picture."

One of the QDR operational goals is to use IT to create a high-capacity, interoperable communications system that lets warfighters transmit information via secure, jam-resistant lines in support of joint forces.

DOD must also develop alternatives capable of overcoming existing and projected bandwidth constraints.

The report says DOD funding will focus on achieving end-to-end command and control capabilities. "Improving communications must be a priority for U.S. conventional, special operations and strategic forces," the report says.

Anthony Valletta, a vice president at SRA International Inc. of Arlington, Va., and a former acting assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, said that while IT has been an enabler, the QDR also focuses on protecting those systems.

The IT community has done such a good job, he said, that warfighters now see the power of technology and depend on it to carry out their mission. But IT is a double-edged sword because as forces come to depend on those systems, they also have to be treated as an asset that needs to be protected, Valletta said.

In the coming months, the QDR will be translated into memorandums that will lay out specific initiatives, said Radha Sekar, a partner for PricewaterhouseCoopers' defense group. "Those become the tools for each one of the undersecretaries to come up with reform initiatives," she said. "The IT implications are pretty vast."

MORE INFO

QDR and technology

The Quadrennial Defense Review addresses two information technology

operational goals:

* Ensure the security of information systems. Information operations

represent a critical capability enhancement for U.S. forces and must be

protected from attack.

* Use IT to develop interoperable joint forces. U.S. forces need a

high-capacity, interoperable communications system that can rapidly transmit

data via secure, jam-resistant connections to support joint forces. That

will enable the Defense Department to deploy smaller forces and fewer weapon

systems.

Source: Quadrennial Defense Review

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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