The Bottom Line: Time to Dust Off the Basics

January 13, 2015
By Maryann Lawlor
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Acquisition, spectrum and interoperability must join the high priority ranks.

While cybersecurity is getting big play in the news these days—as it well should—three topics require just as much attention but have not yet hit the big time. Acquisition, spectrum and interoperability may not have the headline-grabbing charm of the hack into the U.S. Central Command’s Twitter account, but they are issues that need the same serious attention.

For years, industry and government personnel have agreed that the system for purchasing information technology systems needs change—serious change. The complicated acquisition process not only puts out-of-date technology in warfighters’ hands, it puts lives in danger.

Spectrum auctions are another activity that could be putting lives in danger. To the average citizen, these FCC auctions may seem like a win-win deal: the government receives revenue and their mobile devices have even more capabilities and speed. What many don’t understand is that spectrum is a finite commodity required for safety and security, and selling it to the highest bidders could put their lives at risk.

Near the end of the last century, the need for interoperability between the computer systems and communications devices the military and first responders depend on was a hot topic. After all, if one device couldn’t talk to another, attempts at networking were moot. But as companies began responding to interoperability demands, the issue began to fade … and then the cloud rolled in. Problems solved, right? Well, not quite. Systems that can’t talk to each other still exist, so interoperability—or the lack thereof—is a topic that needs to be brought back into the limelight.

The bottom line is that today’s battles cannot be fought with yesterday’s technologies and aren’t being fought on yesterday’s battlefields. These topics have been discussed for decades and while new approaches have been tried, not all of them have succeeded. In a time when adversaries are communicating with each other at the touch of a button and can shut down allied systems—both military and commercial—at the speed of light, the basics are more important than ever.

What are your thoughts about acquisition, spectrum and interoperability? Which topics do you think need to be revived?

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