Difference of Opinion

Two top Defense Department officials agree that DOD should take a larger leadership role in establishing the proposed Homeland Security Department, but how long that will take to establish is up for discussion.

Eileen Preisser, a Congressional fellow and director of DOD's Homeland Defense Technology Center, said that even with the right information technology and funding plan, the basic implementation could take anywhere from 15 to 25 years.

"That is foolish," said Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Kellogg Jr., director of command, control, communications and computers for DOD's Joint Chiefs of Staff. "We cannot wait 15 to 25 years for interoperability in IT with the government, states, agencies and territories."

Going one step further, Kellogg said the argument that setting up the new Homeland Security Department would be cost-prohibitive was flawed, given how much it cost to rebuild after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Losing the World Trade Center cost about $100 billion," Kellogg said. "The cost for [the Homeland Security Department] will pale in comparison to the next attack if it's not done."

A Model Network

The Navy's massive effort to outsource its shore-based network infrastructure is a concept that many agencies will use as a model, and the proposed Homeland Security Department could be the first to do just that, said a former Navy captain who helped initiate the Navy Marine Corps Intranet.

The Homeland Security Department faces the task of bringing agencies together and creating a way to collect information from other agencies, said John Higbee, who is now a professor of program management at the Defense Acquisition University.

"I think it will be the single biggest information technology initiative to come out of the federal government," Higbee said June 18 at the Fortune One Business conference in Falls Church, Va.

Federal Computer Week co-sponsored the conference.

"We need to come up with a way to sift through the haystack and find the needles," Higbee said.

NMCI might point the government in the right direction, he said. Agencies will build enterprise infrastructures in the spirit of NMCI in an effort to improve the security and interoperability of networks, applications and data, said Higbee, who was the deputy to the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy.

Higbee acknowledged that NMCI would not be the exact model that everybody uses, but the overall concept of creating an enterprise infrastructure is a strong trend.

An Onion's Layers

Network-centric warfare, which seeks to make data available to those who need it across the organization and on the battlefield, is the future of the U.S. military, but at present, the services are still struggling with how to deal with all the new data.

"We're now getting the data," said Army Maj. Gen. Steven Boutelle, director of information operations, networks and space in the Army's Office of the Chief Information Officer. "It's not ubiquitous or pervasive yet, but there's more of it."

There is "self-synchronization horizontally" among the different commands and services, but what is lacking are developed tactics, techniques and procedures so that everyone is "synchronizing in the same direction with the same objectives," Boutelle said.

"As we peel the onion back, there's a whole host of new issues that we need to address," he said.

Onions sometimes make us cry, so here's hoping DOD's network-centric warfare vision remains clear.

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