Myers beats drum for interoperability

As the war on terrorism continues to play out, technology enhancements will be needed to ensure that U.S. military commanders get the information they need when they need it, but the key driver to making that happen is cultural, not technological, said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The services are not having bandwidth problems today and are easily moving large files and pictures across their networks, Myers said. But network congestion will increase as traffic volume does, and even then, bandwidth is not the only problem.

The Defense Department continues to battle interoperability problems, having only a limited ability to share information across the services.

"Some of that involves hardware, but the key, in fact, must come in a shift in the way we think, and that's a cultural change," Myers said during an Oct. 31 address at the MILCOM conference in Vienna, Va.

To reap the full benefit of technology, systems must be linked together, Myers said. The department needs to upgrade many of its systems, such as those on the B2 bomber, where people communicate by plugging a laptop computer into an antenna. "That's not the best integration, and we have got to make that better," he said.

The Pentagon has attempted to improve the flow of information by creating the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) framework. But he called the C4ISR's information exchange requirements a Band-aid and said a strong concept of operations is the only way to ensure that a system will get the necessary information to the desired destination.

A standing joint task force headquarters has been established to make sure that any new or legacy systems are interoperable with the C4ISR network and to "ensure a future based on jointness," Myers said. "Joint applications [are] a key part of joint warfighting, and we have to got to make that right."

Myers said stovepipes and a Cold War mentality are the main reasons why interoperability has been a difficult goal to realize in the military, and especially in the intelligence community.

In fact, the intelligence community needs a "major reform" because the system that has been in place since the 1950s won't work in the future, Myers said. "If we're going to reach our vision, it can't be business as usual. We have to get outside our comfort zone." He added that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has discussed this issue with CIA Director George Tenet.

The defense, civilian and intelligence communities have come a long way in sharing information and cooperating since Sept. 11, "but we've got to make this part of the culture," Myers said. "This war on terrorism demands it."


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