DOD focus on joint networks urged

A former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff calls for directing more resources toward networked operations

The Defense Department should direct more resources toward information technology that can drive joint, networked operations, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

DOD has made strides toward joint forces, but the process is moving far too slowly, said retired Adm. William Owens, vice chairman and co-chief executive officer for Teledesic LLC, speaking May 21 at the Network Centric Warfare 2002 conference in Arlington, Va.

Instead of focusing on the evolutionary changes that can come from implementing network-centric operations, the military has been focused on such things as the Army's controversial Crusader weapon system or the Navy's next-generation warship, the DDX.

DOD officials need to focus on integrating systems and pulling together all of the pieces so they work jointly, Owens said.

However, DOD lacks a central authority that could look at using commercial technologies to improve warfighting efforts, he said. "Where do you go in DOD to talk about commercial technologies?" Owens asked. "That's the great strength of this country."

The United States needs to take this seriously because other countries are looking to leverage technology to find the U.S. military's weak points, he said. Other countries understand that they cannot take on the U.S. military in a conventional battle, so they are looking for new and innovative ways to enable their armed forces. The Chinese government, for example, has been spending money on such initiatives, he said.

"It's the next blitzkrieg," he said, and the United States is not spending adequate amounts of money or effort if it is going to maintain its superiority.

"We are here in the United States where we focus on mass" in terms of the size and strength of forces. But others are thinking about leveraging information technology and information warfare, he warned.

Owen also was critical of Defense agencies. Although many of those agencies were created in the hopes of enabling joint operations, that effort has largely failed. "We've wound up with nine additional stovepipes, and they are sucking up money," he said.

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