Policy Remains Major Barrier to Interoperability

August 5, 2010
By Rita Boland

Policy and governance remain the biggest hurdles to interoperability among military services and their various allies and partners according to the joint/coalition panel held this morning at LandWarNet. Representatives from the British Armed Forces, U.S. Marine Corps, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and the Office of the Secretary of Defense sat on a panel moderated by a U.S. Navy admiral from the joint staff to discuss the issues inherent in information sharing in coalition and disaster response missions. Throughout the discussion, panelists made jokes to amuse and engage the audience, but their message was deadly serious-information must be delivered to warfighters at the tactical edge so they can successfully, safely carry out their missions. Security concerns that mandate separate networks have created barriers between partners operating together. Brigadier Andrew Bristow, director, Command and Battlespace Management, British Armed Forces, commented that interoperability is inversely proportional to the number of security domains. "We tend to disadvantage the majority for the security needs of the minority," Brig. Bristow said. He also stated that technology will never solve the problem of information sharing, but rather people must resolve difficulties. He is encouraged that the British Armed Forces has senior leaders who understand these issues. Rear Adm. Janice Hamby, USN, vice director, C4 Systems, The Joint Staff, David DeVries, principal director, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Information, Management, Integration and Technology, and Cindy Moran, director, Network Services Directorate, DISA, told the audience that all their organizations are working hard to improve interoperability and to push information where it needs to go. Panel members touted technical advantages as well, including the Afghan Mission Network which will allow various partners operating in the country to communicate by connecting disparate coalition networks. Adm. Hamby also referenced a capability rolling out in the next few weeks that will allow any common access card (CAC) holder with access to the NIPRNet to use any CAC-enabled NIPRNet machine to pull their profile and access information stored through web services. Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally, USMC, director-designate, C4, U.S Marine Corps, touched on technology and policy saying that command and control systems, not networks, must be standardized. "Systems can become combat prohibitors," he stated. Panelists mentioned standards several times as one part of the solution for interoperability problems. DeVries explained that many of the problems facing information sharing and technology is that policies were written for a different age. "It's all about data now," he said. The Office of the Secretary of Defense needs stakeholders to submit requirements in clear language about their capability issues, DeVries added.

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