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Can DoD Manage the Delivery of GIG Objectives?

DoD operations continue to be hampered by the lack interoperability. In order to run war operations in the last decade DOD had to patch together disparate systems and networks. DoD has been also retrofitting systems after they are fielded to keep field operations working. This approach has been very expensive. It has been insufficient in meeting the DOD’s stated goal of achieving a networked force where soldiers, weapon systems, platforms, and sensors are linked and able to function jointly.

DOD has been looking to the Global Information Grid (GIG) to solve the interoperability problems since 2002. * But progress to date has fallen short of its objectives.

The GIG is a large and complex set of technology programs intended to provide an Internet-like connectivity to every device, including wireless and radio. It is supposed to allow users at any location to access data on demand from anywhere. Its purpose is to enable the sharing of information in real time. GIG should enable collaboration in decision-making regardless of which military service is the source of information.  The GIG would link weapon systems for greater joint command of battle situations as the US dependency on information-based warfare is rising rapidly.

According to a 2006 GAO report the GIG infrastructure will cost approximately $34 billion through 2011 though the rising costs of information assurance will be increasing that amount. * How much of the current annual IT costs of $36.5 billion is allocated to communications is not clear. However, the duplication in over 150 DoD networks is increasingly shifting the costs of information management from applications that support the warfighter to the underlying infrastructure.

DOD’s investment in the GIG extends beyond development of the core network circuits. The purpose of the GIG is to integrate the majority of its weapon systems, application systems into a comprehensive network.  Accomplishing these objectives involves reaching agreement on common standards and in aligning systems with GIG-like services.

There are three decisions processes that have so far impeded the progress in advancing the GIG:
1. The Joint Systems, which the DOD uses to identify, assess, and prioritize military capability needs has not come up with an architecture and design that can be the basis on which to build a functioning GIG;
2. The Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution process, which guides how DOD allocates resources, has not been able to develop an acceptable fiscal and governance mechanism for funding enterprise-level investments;
3. Defense Acquisition System, which governs how DOD acquires weapon and information technology systems, has not been reformed to support a GIG-like venture in which the technologies are subject to rapid changes.

DOD’s decentralized management approach does not fit the GIG.  It is not designed for the development of a large-scale Joint integration effort, which depends on a high degree of coordination and cooperation. Though the GIG calls for clear leadership and authority to control budgets across organizational lines no one is in charge of the GIG. There is no requisite authority or accountability for delivering GIG results.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense assigned overall leadership responsibility for the GIG to the DOD CIO, to include responsibility for developing, maintaining, and enforcing compliance with the GIG architecture; advising DOD leadership on GIG requirements; and providing enterprise-wide oversight of the development, integration, and implementation of the GIG. However, the DoD CIO has practically no influence on investment and program decisions by the military services and defense agencies, which determine investment priorities and manage program development efforts. Consequently, the services and defense agencies are unable to align their spending plans with GIG objectives.

DOD’s decision-making processes are not structured to support crosscutting, department wide integration efforts. The existing processes were established to support discrete service- and platform- oriented programs rather than joint, net-centric never-ending programs. This situation remains in place to this day. The Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System (JCIDS) process has been implemented for almost a decade and has produced a large collection of policy papers but not much else. In the absence of collateral budgetary, PPBE and Acquisition process changes JCIDS plans have a limited use.

For instance, the DOD’s acquisition process continues to move programs forward only if there is sufficient advance knowledge that technologies can work as intended. At the current extremely rapid rate of technological change, information systems investments will become obsolete by the time the entire multi-phase (five years+) Acquisition process can be ever completed.

Joint, net-centric capabilities depend on the delivery of several related acquisition programs. This calls for rapid-turnaround integration in at least quarterly time frames while the acquisition process with a time clock based on years instead of weeks is not suited for managing interdependencies among diverse programs, especially if cooperation from several services and agencies is instantly necessary for the correction of software defects.

The Global Information Grid has been seen as the cornerstone of information superiority, as a key enabler of net-centric warfare, and as a basis for defense transformation. The GIG’s many systems were expected to make up a secure, reliable network to enable users to access and share information. Communications satellites, next-generation radios, and a military installations-based network with significantly expanded bandwidth were supposed to pave the way in which DOD expects to achieve information superiority over adversaries. The focus of the GIG was to ensure that all systems could connect to the network based on common standards and protocols. Some progress has been made but only at the price of rising costs and the increasing disconnection between the technologies of DoD and commercial IT.

Increased budgetary pressures are starting to modify DoD's use of the term "GIG". That is undergoing changes as new concepts are emerging such as Cyberspace Operations, GIG 2.0 or the Department of Defense Information Enterprise (DIE). Such ideas are in the process of revising what was original version of GIG, which delivered mostly circuit bandwidth but little else.

However, unless there are revisions in the way in which Joint Systems requirements are defined, how the Planning, Programming and Budgeting processes are revised and how Acquisition is restructured, the existing management processes are inadequate for delivering the desired integration and interoperability goals.

* DoD Directive 8100.1
** GAO-06-211

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