Joint Forces given new clout

After months of negotiations, Defense Department officials reached a compromise last week in which they will centralize some oversight of command and control systems that integrate information across the different services but keep systems operations and funding under the agencies that currently manage them.

Pentagon officials believe shifting some oversight to the Joint Forces Command will improve the Pentagon's ability to conduct battles that involve more than one service, a key aspect of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's transformation initiative.

However, the decision, which was approved Jan. 8, appears to stop short of giving the Joint Forces Command complete control of joint C2 operations, as advocated by some DOD officials, including Army Lt. Gen. Joseph Kellogg Jr., director of command, control, communications and computer systems for the Joint Staff.

According to a DOD official who has read the decision, the Joint Forces Command will not have the final word on joint C2 programs. Instead the command would wield influence by generating systems requirements for strategic and tactical operations, particularly in battle management command and control (BMC2).

A senior DOD official, who refused to comment on the document, did say Rumsfeld instructed Pentagon and Joint Forces officials to develop a plan focused on joint operational capabilities and concepts within six months.

The decision also includes an expanded role for the Joint Forces Command in identifying "system-of-systems capability requirements," the DOD official said. The system-of-systems approach means that each system that contributes information is designed to work with other systems to give commanders an integrated picture.

"In my experience at the DOD, sole control never happens," said Paul Brubaker, a former DOD deputy chief information officer. Centralizing control and funding would have been a "shock" to the military services, he added. "This represents a collaborative solution to joint interoperability."

The decision comes after months of rumors that the Defense Information Systems Agency was at risk of having its role diminished.

Last month, Robert Hutten, director for strategic plans, programming and policy at DISA, said he believed the Joint Forces Command's role in the joint C2 arena would be enhanced, but mostly at the tactical, or battle management, level, with a focus on "oversight and requirements-gathering and generation."

DISA — which provides support in communications, command and control, defensive information operations, combat support computing and joint interoperability support activities — is not mentioned in the decision, according to the DOD official.

The Joint Forces Command will lead combatant commanders in the development of BMC2-related doctrine, concepts, requirements and architectures, the DOD official said. This enables the command to generate requirements that DISA, in its role as a combat support agency, can develop and execute for combatant commanders.

Brubaker, who is currently managing director of Beil and Co. LLC, a government consulting firm, said the increased role for the Joint Forces Command is important because "it's another voice speaking up loudly for the combatant commanders, and I think that's important because they don't always get heard through the services," Brubaker said.

An industry source familiar with the DOD joint C2 situation said there may also be plans to put a DISA field command — headed by a member of the Senior Executive Service — at Joint Forces Command headquarters in Norfolk, Va., further increasing collaboration between DISA and the command.

In an e-mail message last week, Hutten said that DISA already has a field office at the Joint Forces Command "headed by an extremely capable individual" and that there is "daily interaction" between the two entities.

"Close collaboration with, and support of [Joint Forces Command] is a high priority to us," Hutten said. "We will make whatever changes in the future needed to meet the requirements of combatant commanders, but we think we have a solid foundation in place right now" with the Joint Forces Command.

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