Commander lays out IT challenges

The commander of U.S. Pacific Command (Pacom) has a few problems that he thinks information technology can do a better job of helping to solve.

Navy Adm. Thomas Fargo said that his command, like the rest of the Defense Department, has been charged with minimizing its footprint without affecting combat capabilities as it continues fighting the global war on terrorism, and he thinks IT can help.

Speaking Nov. 19 at the AFCEA International's TechNet Asia-Pacific 2002 Conference and Exposition in Honolulu, Fargo said there are five main command, control, communications, computers, intelligence (C4I) and security challenges that IT can help Pacom overcome:

* Architecture to create a clear blueprint to integrate solutions for end-to-end decision-making capabilities.

* Efficiency, from business processes to workforce numbers.

* "Reachback" capabilities to connct deployed forces to the best information source for their needs.

* Information sharing with joint and coalition forces.

* Information assurance for increasing information agility without compromising security.

The Global Information Grid (GIG), which is designed to provide DOD with a working framework for moving to network-centric operations, is a great start in helping to solve the architecture problem, but it needs to be able to better incorporate service-specific solutions as they are developed, Fargo said. To aid in that effort, Pacom is using its new headquarters as a pilot for joint information capabilities that maps its C4I solutions onto the GIG.

"It's a small-scale pilot as to how to put the framework [together] and establish an architecture, and put systems on that are seamless within that framework," Fargo told Federal Computer Week.

In the efficiency realm, he said, "Only half of the promise of IT is being met." He said that's because his chief information officer's office is outsourcing many projects, but the team is not getting any smaller and neither is the space being taken up by IT equipment.

"The J6 [Communications Electronics Division] is doing a lot of contracting, but not much contracting," he said, using two meanings and pronunciations of "contracting" for emphasis. He added that the Navy Marine Corps Intranet program is helping reduce the number of servers within Pacom, but that only affects about one-third of those machines. "We have got to streamline and determine what the return on investment really is."

Fargo said weather information is the best example of how "reachback" could enhance combat capabilities without increasing DOD's footprint. He said that weather data should be available as an icon on a computer as opposed to a separate command, and IT can serve as the link between the forward deployed forces and the best information provider for them, whether it's Pacom, an air operations center or another source.

Pacom and DOD are doing a better job of sharing information internally and with coalition forces, and that's because IT solutions are increasingly being built with those environments in mind, he said, adding that U.S. allies must take on a "greater share of the security burden, not less," in the future.

Fargo added that information assurance alerts are showing up on his desk more frequently, and he asked industry to help solve that problem and the others.

"IT - both in its capabilities and its hardware - are fundamental to winning this global war on terrorism," he said.

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