DOD seeks joint IT funding

MilCom

In an effort to put their money where their priorities are, Defense Department officials are considering a plan that would give joint commanders control over the allocation of joint information technology budgets, a senior DOD official said.

Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Kellogg Jr., director of command, control, communications and computer systems for the Joint Staff, said that officials will present a recommendation to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld later this year that would make joint combatant commanders responsible for setting funding priorities, rather than allowing individual military services to make their own decisions.

Officials hope that the change in the decision-making structure will increase the military's joint warfighting capabilities — a cornerstone of DOD's transformation efforts — and will help build the network-centric operations that are the focus of DOD's senior leaders.

Joint force commanders have often complained that the military services have not made joint force needs a priority, Kellogg said during a speech at the Military Communications Conference in Anaheim, Calif., this month. The new concept calls for joint commanders to make the funding decisions that affect joint command and control functions.

"It's top-driven instead of bottom-driven," Kellogg said. "We've turned everything on its head."

The recommendations are part of a larger study, called Study #20, required by the Defense Planning Guidance. The guidance includes the instructions for achieving DOD's priorities. The overall review will be presented to Rumsfeld by the end of the year, Kellogg said, but the IT provisions are essentially completed.

The idea is to create command and control systems that are "born joint," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege Jr., director of the Defense Information Systems Agency. "You're going to save money, trouble and effort the sooner you can build joint capabilities into command and control" systems.

The funding shift is necessary to keep up with the changing dimensions of command and control — with warfighters wanting more communications, greater interoperability and faster access to information.

Raduege said that systems have traditionally been seen as interoperable, but they lose their joint capabilities as they develop further. The goal, he said, is to maintain that interoperability by making joint capabilities a core development criterion.

"If you put this into a central pool and give this to somebody...then you would develop capability early that is jointly interoperable for everyone," Raduege said. However, officials have not yet determined which organization would be in charge of the joint fund.

Raduege said that DISA is well- suited to such a responsibility. "I would submit DISA, as a combat support agency...that's what we have based our reputation on. That is our simple theme — joint, interoperable, secure, best value."

The decision-making change will be significant, Kellogg said, and will require that the services give up some of their sovereignty. Officials acknowledged that the change will likely raise serious turf issues.

But Kellogg said it fits with the new approach DOD leaders are taking to the way the military wages war.

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had not seen or heard of the proposal but questioned the necessity of creating a new organizational layer. Such efforts could be "duplicative," he said.

But Kellogg said that information has become a critical part of the way the military wages war. "The role of information will be the new silver bullet of the future, one that will change how we deploy our forces" by creating a unified, seamless, integrated fighting force, he said. And interoperability is critical because military operations are increasingly joint operations.

***

Joint operations

In modern warfare, warfighters need more information about the battlefield than what any one service's particular system can provide.

They need "that fully horizontally integrated vision of the battlefield," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege Jr., director of the Defense Information Systems Agency. That information may come from unmanned aerial vehicles, satellites or other intelligence tools.

A warfighter should not "be put in a situation where he is limited just because he has one stovepipe system" that doesn't communicate with other systems.

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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