DOD focus on joint networks urged

The Defense Department should direct more resources toward information technology that can drive joint, networked operations, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

DOD has made strides toward joint forces, but the process is moving far too slowly, said retired Adm. William Owens, vice chairman and co-chief executive officer for Teledesic LLC, speaking May 21 at the Network Centric Warfare 2002 conference in Arlington, Va.

Instead of focusing on the evolutionary changes that can come from implementing network-centric operations, the military has been focused on such things as the Army's controversial Crusader weapon system or the Navy's next-generation warship, the DDX.

DOD officials need to focus on integrating systems and pulling together all of the pieces so they work jointly, Owens said.

However, DOD lacks a central authority that could look at using commercial technologies to improve warfighting efforts, he said. "Where do you go in DOD to talk about commercial technologies?" Owens asked. "That's the great strength of this country."

The United States needs to take this seriously because other countries are looking to leverage technology to find the U.S. military's weak points, he said. Other countries understand that they cannot take on the U.S. military in a conventional battle, so they are looking for new and innovative ways to enable their armed forces. The Chinese government, for example, has been spending money on such initiatives, he said.

"It's the next blitzkrieg," he said, and the United States is not spending adequate amounts of money or effort if it is going to maintain its superiority.

"We are here in the United States where we focus on mass" in terms of the size and strength of forces. But others are thinking about leveraging information technology and information warfare, he warned.

Owen also was critical of Defense agencies. Although many of those agencies were created in the hopes of enabling joint operations, that effort has largely failed. "We've wound up with nine additional stovepipes, and they are sucking up money," he said.

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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