>A Net-centric Military and Enterprise Architecture

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Information is central to the Department of Defense’s arsenal for fighting and defeating our enemies and the ability to share information across interoperable systems in the way ahead.

National Defense, March 2008 reports that while a net-centric military is our goal, the transformation is a work in progress.

Brig. Gen. David Warner, director of command and control at DISA stated: “in this war, information is truly our primary weapon. You can’t move, you can’t shoot, if you can’t communicate.”

Yet, “the Defense Department continues to acquire stovepiped systems…the requirements change, the system grows, and then there are cost overruns. One of the first items to cut from the budget is interoperability.”

Air Force Gen. Lance L. Smith says, “the dream of a truly net-centric U.S. military will not happen overnight. But progress could be achieved within the next five to 10 years, It will be a matter of waiting for the stovepiped legacy systems to come to the end of their lifespan. If the services get onboard and stop building non-interoperable technologies now, then the new generation of net-centric communications can take over and become the norm.”

This sounds to me like the problem isn’t limited to legacy systems, but that there are still cultural, project management, and change management issues that are obstacles to achieving the net-centric goal.

The challenges are even greater and more complex when it comes to sharing information with “federal civilian agencies and foreign allies…NATO, for example, has no mechanism to ensure its members are interoperable with each other.”

Today the normal way to do business is to ‘exchange hostages’ which means sending personnel from one service, agency, or coalition partner to each other’s command centers so they can verbally relay information.” This typically takes the form of interagency operation command center, and is not very net-centric.

So we continue to have stovepipes for “communications or data sharing systems built by different agencies, armed services, or coalition partners that cannot link to each other…[yet] the U.S. military is trying to make itself more lethal, faster, and more survivable. [And] the key to doing that is the ability to share information.”

Net-centricity, interoperability, and information sharing are true cornerstones to what enterprise architecture is about, and it is where we as architects are needed to take center stage now and in the years ahead in the war on terrorism and the other challenges we will face.

From an EA perspective, we need to ensure that all of our agencies’ targets, transition plans, and IT governance structures not only include, but emphasize net-centricity and enforce it through the EA review processes and the investment review board. There is no excuse for these stovepipes to persist.

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