Lack of Interoperability Equals Built-in Degradation

November 18, 2015
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Forces will enter combat hindered by glitches before even encountering enemy forces.


The fear of communications degradation by enemy cyber forces may need to take a back seat to self-inflicted digital wounds. These handicaps would come not from hardware or human failures, but from a lack of interoperability among joint and coalition forces.

Wednesday’s opening speaker at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2015, being held in Honolulu, November 17-19, directly addressed its theme of Fight to Communicate: Operating in a Communications-Degraded Environment. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, USA, commander, U.S. Army Pacific, put the problem in perspective with his early remarks.

“Before we have any contact with an enemy, we’ll find we have degraded communication,” he declared. “More often than not, we’re going to operate degraded before the enemy shows up.”

Being unable to exchange information effectively in a coalition will hamper U.S. forces in their areas of strength. The Asia-Pacific region features a very diverse set of allies and potential partners. These allies and potential partners shape the nature of the coalitions that will form. And, interoperability will require an international solution.

Gen. Brooks cited three different types of interoperability components: technical, procedural and human/cultural. All three must factor into develop interoperability solutions; no single component can solve the problem.

“We have to be extraordinarily adept technologically—and we’re not,” he declared.

The general asked industry to help close these interoperability gaps. He told them to ask themselves: “Is our technology built to connect us to anyone, anytime, anywhere?” That should be a criteria for developing new systems.

“We want to focus our attention on degrading our adversaries,” he said.

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