GAO: Plan needed for intell system

"Steps Needed to Ensure Interoperability of Systems That Process Intelligence Data"

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The Defense Department should develop a detailed migration plan and schedule as it works to create interoperability among systems that process intelligence data, according to a General Accounting Office report.

DOD is working to create a Distributed Common Ground-Surface System (DCGS), which will be an overarching family of interconnected systems that receives, processes, stores, correlates and disseminates reconnaissance intelligence.

The multibillion-dollar system was launched in 1998, but DOD has not completed plans for that initiative, according to GAO's report, which was released April 8.

"DOD is developing an architecture, or blueprint, for the new systems, but it has not yet formally identified which systems are to be involved in the migration initiative," the report said. In addition, DOD has not determined:

* What the time frames will be for making selections and modifications, conducting interoperability tests, and integrating systems into the overarching system.

* How the transitions will be funded.

* How the success of the initiative will be tracked.

GAO also found that DOD's process for testing and certifying the interoperability of ground-surface-based processing systems is not working effectively. Only two of 26 DCGS systems have been certified as interoperable, and certifications are not yet planned for seven others.

"The certification process is important because it considers such things as whether systems can work with systems belonging to the other military services without unacceptable workarounds or special interfaces, whether they are using standard data formats, and whether they conform to broader architectures designed to facilitate interoperability across DOD," according to GAO.

GAO made three key recommendations for the Defense secretary to follow to improve interoperability among DOD's intelligence assets:

* Direct the assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence (ASD-C3I) to develop a migration plan or road map to get DOD and the services to their goal, and mechanisms for ensuring that the plan is followed.

* Direct the ASD-C3I to develop an investment strategy to identify what funds are available for DCGS migration and transition to the target architecture, and identify whether there are gaps that need to be addressed.

* Enforce the DCGS certification process, including directing the service secretaries in collaboration with the Joint Staff, acquisition executives and the Joint Interoperability Test Command to examine reasons the services are slow to comply with its certification requirement.

"If lack of funding is found to be a significant barrier, we recommend that the secretary of Defense consider centrally funding the DCGS certification process as a pilot program," the report said.

In response to a draft copy of the report, Kevin Meiners, director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance programs in the ASD-C3I office, concurred with the first three recommendations, but said it was premature to make DCGS a centrally funded pilot program without further defining the program's problems. Meiners added that the road map activity is funded for this year and "is to begin shortly."

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