DOD funnels money into transformation

The Defense Department is requesting more than $24 billion for information technology-related initiatives to improve the Pentagon's ability to support the evolving war on terrorism and its long-term plan to transform information into a weapon.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in testimony Feb. 5 before the House Armed Services Committee, said the budget request attempts to balance three competing demands: winning the global war on terrorism by meeting near-term demands; preparing for near-term threats by improving the agency's investments in war preparations, people and modernization; and preparing for the future through transformation.

"We have an Industrial Age organization, yet we are living in an Information Age world, where new threats emerge suddenly, often without warning, to surprise us," Rumsfeld said in his prepared testimony. "We cannot afford not to change, and rapidly, if we hope to live in that world."

The department's transformation initiative has two IT-specific goals: harnessing technology to enable the different services to fight jointly and protecting U.S. information networks from attack while disabling enemies' networks.

The focal point of transformation is improving DOD's ability to collect, analyze and act on information. All together, DOD seeks more than $3.9 billion for similar systems in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) programs.

The request includes $452 million for laser satellite communications — which should ease bandwidth problems — and $416 million to update cryptologic technology used to protect DOD networks.

The budget also earmarks $125 million for the deployable Joint Command and Control System, a Navy-led effort to provide intelligence processes, mission planning and control of combat operations for the joint force headquarters.

Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the first deployable joint command and control system is scheduled for delivery in 2005, and when combined with other programs, "this effort will allow the joint force to truly transform the way it plans, coordinates and executes joint operations."

"This is the heart of transformation," DOD Comptroller Dov Zakheim said. "The communications are the key."

Patrick Garrett, an associate analyst at GlobalSecurity.org, which monitors space and military programs, said that "real-time situational awareness — instead of delayed — is a crucial element" to DOD's transformation. He added that C4ISR enables the various weapons systems operators and military commanders to communicate "and know what's going on at a moment's notice."

DOD's budget for research, development, testing and evaluation totals $61.8 billion, a nearly $5 billion increase over 2003 funding. Rumsfeld said the increase reflects a "decision to accelerate the development of needed next-generation systems...by accepting some near-term risk."

DOD officials also are changing the way they develop new systems by employing, whenever and wherever possible, the "spiral development" approach, which rolls out systems in small steps and then adds capabilities to the basic system as they become available, he said.

"In an age when terrorists move information at the speed of an e-mail, money at the speed of a wire transfer and people at the speed of a commercial jetliner, the Defense Department, I regret to say, is bogged down in bureaucratic processes of the Industrial Age," Rumsfeld said.

DOD has had a goal of reaching the industry's standard 3 percent spending on science and technology, but the fiscal 2004 request falls short. The $10.2 billion science and technology request represents about 2.7 percent of the total DOD budget, although those numbers could increase based on the budget Congress ultimately approves.

Zakheim said the department is on pace to reach the 3 percent goal by the decade's end. He added that the science and technology funding represents the "research side of the [research and development] continuum...and now we're emphasizing development."

"This is an example of Rumsfeld's focus on getting [technologies] into the field sooner rather than later," Garrett said, adding that instead of spending so much time researching and testing, DOD is now taking a "break a little, fix a little approach" on many systems.

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