From Square One

The chief information officer of the Northern Command said it faces many challenges — especially since the organization has only 200 of the 600 people it is slated to employ — all while it is still figuring out exactly what the organization is supposed to be doing.

The immediate goal is to develop portals, conferencing capabilities and ways of connecting the many IP and voice networks scattered throughout the state and local agencies that Northcom will be dealing with, said Maj. Gen. Dale Meyerrose last week at a homeland security conference sponsored by Silicon Graphics Inc. The goal is to connect all those components with states and localities, but for now "meeting in the clouds" is probably the best that is going to happen, he said.

Northcom itself will not be purchasing tons of information technology, but the CIO's office, which is also responsible for integration and architecture, will set policies and standards.

One of the overarching policies: use as much commercial software and hardware as possible, because Northcom officials have yet to find a need that can't be met with commercial solutions, Meyerrose said.

Command officials are still dealing with how to handle information that must be shared among the Defense Department, civilian agencies, the intelligence community, and state and local agencies. One of Meyerrose's main concerns is that the DOD culture of a "need-to-know basis" will clash with Northcom's "need-to-share" expectation.

Hammertime, DOD Style

In light of how DOD officials have been underscoring the need to better link the department's investments to its warfighting capabilities, it should come as no surprise that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is now hammering that point home.

Rumsfeld recently issued a memorandum to military service leaders that gives them 25 days to submit their opinions on the best organizational structure for joint command and control programs and who should be in charge of them.

Lt. Gen. Leslie Kenne, deputy chief of staff for warfighting integration at Air Force headquarters in Washington, D.C., said that the service will deliver its briefing for Rumsfeld the week before Thanksgiving.

"In joint command and control, things are very zesty right now" as DOD attempts to eliminate redundancies among the services, Kenne said during a speech at last week's Air Force IT Day, sponsored by the Northern Virginia chapter of AFCEA International Inc. "Who is going to have the big hammer to make that happen?"

As long as no one suggests MC Hammer, future joint command and control decisions will be in good hands.

A Solution...For Now

The Air Force has never had its wireless local-area networks breached — except by its own forces. Air Force teams running security tests found an abundance of holes. So the service is close to approving a wireless LAN solution — for now.

Col. William Nelson, a deputy director in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Warfighting Integration at Air Force headquarters, said the wireless LAN products aren't perfect, but the Air Force wants its staff to use the approved tools "until DOD approves more requirements and until industry comes up with something better."

Nelson would not say which vendors' products were involved, but last week at the enterprise architecture seminar sponsored by the Bethesda, Md., chapter of AFCEA, he did say the approved tools would be announced "within the next quarter."

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