Navy IT leader lauds KM

Operation Iraqi Freedom has proven that U.S. military services and other nations can share critical data during wartime in a Web-based, network-centric environment, according to one Navy information technology leader.

Knowledge management and information sharing systems are not perfect, but they have worked with unprecedented success during the war in Iraq — both from a joint and coalition perspective, said Monica Shephard, director of command, control, communications, computers and combat systems for the Navy's Atlantic Fleet.

"Knowledge management is key to the Navy" and all the other military services, she said, noting that success has been achieved despite serious bandwidth constraints and the problems inherent in sharing information in a coalition environment, such as different countries using different classification levels and some partners not wanting to share data with others.

In a network-centric environment, data is made available as quickly as possible to those who need it — across the organization or on the battlefield. Shephard said lessons learned already are being gleaned from the current conflict.

"Speed matters," Shephard told FCW. "The ability to form and re-form networks for coalition forces and structures means we need systems capable of moving [data] accurately, with great speed."

As an example, Shephard said that one year ago, there were few, if any, multilevel security systems for use among coalition partners. But during the current war in Iraq, the U.S. Pacific Command's Combined Operations Wide-Area Network, (COWAN), which spans the Asia-Pacific region, has been used and linked with the U.S. Central Command's Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange (Centrix) system.

Centrix supports more than 30 participating nations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The link with Central Command, known as COWAN-C, enables the Defense Department and coalition partners to exchange e-mail and, in some cases, use other collaborative software. COWAN already includes secure enclaves in a number of regions, including COWAN-K with Korea, COWAN-J with Japan, and COWAN-A, which supports Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

"Multi-level security is no longer a science fair project," she said. "It's being done and making a difference in the field."

Shephard spoke April 15 at the E-Gov Knowledge Management conference in Washington, D.C. E-Gov and Federal Computer Week are owned by FCW Media Group.

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