Pacom commander demands more of IT

For the U.S. Pacific Command — whose authority encompasses 102 million square miles, more than 190 ships and submarines, 1,400 aircraft, and about 220,000 combined military and civilian staff — doing more with less is a tall order.

Although that task is daunting, Pacom Commander Navy Adm. Thomas Fargo said his command, like the rest of the Defense Department, has been charged with improving its warfighting capabilities while shrinking its infrastructure as the department continues fighting the global war on terrorism. Fargo said he thinks information technology can help.

Speaking last month at AFCEA International's TechNet Asia-Pacific 2002 conference in Honolulu, Fargo highlighted five main challenges in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence (C4I) and security that IT can help overcome:

* Developing an architecture that helps the command integrate C4I applications.

* Developing more efficient business processes and staffing strategies.

* Improving communications among deployed forces.

* Supporting information sharing with joint and coalition forces.

* Improving information assurance, making data more readily available without compromising security.

Ray Bjorklund, vice president of market intelligence and chief knowledge officer at Federal Sources Inc., said Fargo emphasizes two themes: interoperability and scalability.

"They want to use all these new technologies, but if they don't scale to the enterprise, that's a problem," Bjorklund said.

Pacom is enormous, making the task even more difficult. Furthermore, Pacom systems must work with other DOD systems and international partners.

The Global Information Grid, which is designed to provide DOD with an architecture for network-centric operations, is a great start in helping 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 project for a joint information capabilities enhancement environment, which details how its C4I systems plug into the Global Information Grid.

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

In terms of improving efficiency, he said, "only half of the promise of IT is being met." That is largely because his chief information officer's office is outsourcing many projects, yet the team is not getting any smaller, and neither is the space being taken up by IT equipment.

Fargo said weather information is the best example of how "reachback" could enhance combat capabilities without increasing the number of soldiers DOD has to put near the front lines.

He said that weather data should be available as an icon on a computer as opposed to a separate command, and IT can be 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 sharing information internally and with coalition forces, because IT solutions are increasingly being built with those environments in mind, Fargo said, adding that U.S. allies must take on a "greater share of the security burden, not less," in the future. He added that information assurance alerts are showing up on his desk more frequently, and he asked industry to help solve that problem and others.

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

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