Large Gulf Still Separates Industry, Military

February 2007
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Similar challenges afflict both, but communication shortcomings limit joint endeavors.

Despite common interests and goals, the military and the information technology sector are hampered by cultural differences that thwart their ability to work together, according to a former U.S. Defense Department information technology leader now in the private sector.

The military needs to understand and incorporate business practices to maintain effectiveness in the information age. The commercial sector must implement network-centric approaches to compete in the global marketplace. And the information age itself may be spawning a new era that views information in a totally different light—a change that both sectors must accommodate as they move ahead.

Lt. Gen. Harry D. Raduege Jr., USAF (Ret.), is the former director of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). He is chairman of the DeloitteCenter for Network Innovation, Washington, D.C., and he is on contract through Deloitte to The Cohen Group, Washington, D.C., where he is a senior counselor.

The center at Deloitte targets three major focus areas: national security, emergency preparedness and health. This gives the retired general the opportunity to work in both the public and private sectors.

“I am a believer that information networks and network operations can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of any business operation,” Gen. Raduege warrants. “Whether your business is warfighting, intelligence gathering or more traditional business areas such as logistics, finance or medical, networks and net-centric operations can improve the effectiveness and efficiency of any of those.”

Solutions to these diverse challenges are not always readily apparent. “Most difficult issues and problems usually result in some sort of hybrid answer,” the general says. “It’s not always black, and it’s not always white; it’s not always left, and it’s not always right. You study the problem, and it’s somewhere in between or some combination of answers that move you forward.”

Gen. Raduege’s more than three decades of military service began with the invention of the semiconductor and ended amid the flourishing information age. His perspective reflects those years of military information system experience coupled with his current related positions in the private sector.

The biggest difference that Gen. Raduege has observed between the defense community and the private sector is in their cultures. He relates that they differ greatly in cultures and that “the two talk past each other all the time.”

For example, the acronyms on both sides have become great stumbling blocks and impediments, he notes. “I used to think that the government was bad [with acronym usage], but industry is perhaps just as bad,” he says.

“When you have these cultures that are trying to come together to do business with each other, we have different languages. That’s the part that is perhaps the biggest impediment to moving forward at a quicker pace,” Gen. Raduege observes.

He continues that the military frequently has discussed internally the need to talk to the operator to learn what that operator wants. But, the military often has trouble doing that. That failure is magnified when industry tries to learn what the operator wants from another layer that may not even know that operator’s needs.

The complexity of government also makes it difficult for industry to glean the insights necessary to serve its customer, the general adds. Turnover in both government and industry contribute to this continuing lack of effective communication. People change positions, and organizations change their foci and their structures. Government groups regularly reorganize, and their officials come and go frequently. Their corporate counterparts undergo mergers and acquisitions.

Yet both the commercial sector and its government counterparts continue to strive to improve their communication. “There is a constant awareness and requirement to continually build those bridges between government and industry,” he says. “Our work never will be done—it’s something that we have to continually work on.”

He continues that pockets and communities within the Defense Department and industry engage in effective communication. However, many large sectors do not interface effectively or even present their perspectives.

The general recounts how at DISA he tried to connect his agency with the Silicon Valley community. That group often is a font of innovation, particularly its smaller businesses and startups. So DISA endeavored to link itself with great thinkers and with chief executive officers, chief information officers (CIOs) and chief technology officers of those organizations to get a strategic picture of the future of high technology. For example, the agency began to work with Google when it was a small firm, which was many years before it became the publicly traded giant that it is today. One of those meetings with several leading executives at Google took place on the day that the company went public, the general notes.

DISA also strove to communicate the operator’s requirements to those companies, the general adds. Whenever he was invited to speak to an industry group, he took his available senior staff to speak with those industry representatives, he says.

For the future, military networks will need to enable integrated business operations. Networking no longer is about just command and control or warfighting, the general declares. Many other military enablers—such as logistics, medical activities, finance and administration—are becoming part of the integrated business operations of the Defense Department. Engineering expertise from DISA is establishing the basis for this through efforts such as the Net-Centric Enterprise Services program.

“Integrated business operations goes into any civilian business organization,” he adds. “Even in civilian business organizations there are silos. The Defense Department has not cornered the market on silos within its organizations—industry has plenty of silos within companies so that [the companies] don’t have integrated business operations within.” He predicts a movement toward net-centric enterprise services throughout government and industry.

Gen. Raduege sees the information age leading to ubiquitous access to information. Information will be available anywhere, anytime. This will require a network that will provide coverage and allow access virtually anywhere on the planet. This type of network is a huge challenge, but it is the vision of the future, he predicts.

This ubiquity also will further a radical change in the nature of the information age itself—a change that already is beginning to take hold. “We are leaving the information age—where power was in the information—and are entering an age of interdependence,” Gen. Raduege says. “It’s all about sharing of the information. It’s about thinking about different ways of allowing people access to your information. That’s a critical difference.

“The interdependence age is about cultures as well as cultures changing the way they think about others,” he continues. “The vector is changing from one of ownership of information—and distribution of information based on what you think is best—180 degrees to [one in which] the person at the end, the tactical or edge user, is allowed access to the information as they want the information. That is a tremendous cultural change from the people who have been empowered to own information and distribute it the way they saw fit to one that changes the vector 180 degrees.”

Looking back at his time as DISA director, Gen. Raduege describes the agency’s customer focus as the most important characteristic of his term there. He relates that shortly after his arrival as director, several incidents took place that seemed to indicate that the agency was not being responsive to its customers. The first step in reversing that trend was to identify the customers properly, he says. This identification separated customers into the categories of warfighters and warriors who support warfighters.

More specifically, these two categories comprised combatant commanders, the services and defense agencies. Each of those groups had diverse cultures within, he adds, which contributed to a wide customer base. As a combat support agency, DISA looked to the combatant commanders, defense agency heads, military service officials and organizations such as the Joint Staff for input about their needs and requests of the agency. DISA also established feedback mechanisms so that its customers could keep the agency informed of these processes.

The agency undertook a reorganization to address this complex global customer base, Gen. Raduege says, and industry served as a basis for this reorganization. The general visited several companies to ascertain how those firms dealt with acquisition, networks and engineering activities.

Gen. Raduege implemented two 500-day plans at DISA, and he emphasizes their importance. This time frame allowed him to accomplish his goals during his tenure. The first 500-day plan was a key to incorporating the agency’s new customer focus, he offers, as it cemented relationships with the agency and its users.

When the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred, DISA’s activities suddenly increased. “Everything stepped up,” the general states. The first agenda item dealt with Gen. Raduege’s responsibilities as head of the National Communications System (NCS). The NCS had to establish priorities for restoring all of the communications circuits that were down in New York City. This added up to about 2.5 million voice and 3 million data circuits. 

Among other priorities established by President George W. Bush were search and rescue and restoration of the stock and bond market, Gen. Raduege relates. Both of these efforts involved re-establishing communications. This entailed re-prioritizing circuits to support emergency responders and the financial district.

But the other urgent tasking facing Gen. Raduege was DISA’s responsibilities in the wake of the attack on the Pentagon, which nearly destroyed critical national command and control capabilities. DISA personnel needed to work in that building while it was still on fire for days afterward, he recalls, and firefighting efforts dumped tons of water into basement areas that held high-power electronic equipment. The rising water posed a threat both to the equipment and to the DISA personnel working on the gear at the risk of electrocution.

Once the national and military communications infrastructures were secured, DISA’s focus shifted to taking the war to the enemy. When U.S. forces struck against the Taliban in Afghanistan, DISA had to establish communications in a country lacking both infrastructure and an established U.S. force presence. The agency worked quickly to establish communications in that remote area, the general says.

But even with the war, the biggest changes in DISA took place in five distinct areas. Gen. Raduege recounts that he called them the Big A, Big E, Big O, Big F and Big G for their categories of change—“the major muscle mover areas where we needed to put our emphasis with our organization to take DISA to the next level,” he says.

The Big A stood for acquisition. DISA was redefining itself into an acquisition organization for command, control, communications and computers and information networks throughout the Defense Department, he relates, and this required stepping up to acquisition responsibilities. Having been successful at past networks such as Autovon, Autodin, the secret Internet protocol router network (SIPRNET) and the nonsecure Internet protocol router network (NIPRNET), DISA had to become effective at Web-based technologies to expand the capabilities of networks such as the Global Command and Control System (GCCS). Gen. Raduege relates that the overall GCCS, which includes roughly 100 different systems accumulated over the years, underwent only 50 software changes during his tenure at DISA, and many of these were key enablers such as streaming video.

Engineering was the Big E, and DISA developed a professional engineering staff to provide new services. These professionals also communicated with industry to ensure effective two-way dialogue.

The Big O was operations, and DISA built its new global network operations and security center. Gen. Raduege also became the first joint task force (JTF) commander for global network operations (GNO). This put all of the Defense Department’s networks under a single JTF commander working for the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command. The services then assigned component commanders to the JTF commander.

Finances composed the Big F. These new capabilities added new financial responsibilities to DISA’s budget. Its budget grew from about $5.5 billion to $8 billion, and the agency had to establish better procedures to ensure accountability. The fifth area, the Big G, involved governance. “If you’re going to govern by networks and networks become centric to everything you do, then you have to have network governance,” Gen. Raduege emphasizes.

He says that as a civilian he is finding that CIOs at all levels of government and industry are seeking ways to govern their networks better. Having a world-class network requires control, especially configuration control and management. DISA and the JTF-GNO “worked hand-in-glove” to ensure change throughout the network.


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