Lack of Compliance with the Joint Technical Architecture
A major problem with the standards and common
infrastructure approach has been a lack of compliance. For example, a recent DOD
Inspector General report found that program plans for a large number of C4I
projects did not call for conformance to the Joint Technical Architecture, even
though those projects were subject to defense-wide guidance directing Joint
Technical Architecture conformance.28 The committee observes that if some written plans say nothing about compliance, it can only be assumed that others that do promise compliance will not in fact deliver. The report concluded that DOD does not have an integrated or coordinated approach to implementing the Joint Technical Architecture, and thus has little assurance that the Joint Technical Architecture will meet DOD interoperability goals.
A report by the General Accounting Office concluded that
DOD organizations are not complying with the current interoperability testing
and certification process for existing, newly developed, and modified C4I
systems.29 The General Accounting Office further found that in some cases, DOD program officials ignored the guidance, while in other cases, they were simply unaware of it.
These findings are consistent with the committee's sampling of C4I programs. Officials from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for C3I expressed to the committee their frustration at trying to persuade program managers to pay proper attention to C4I interoperability issues. Indeed, one person from that office argued that a major problem was that the definition of C4I technology and systems was porous enough that program managers could argue that they were not subject to directives applying to C4I systems.
Given that even with a formal process in place, Joint Technical Architecture compliance remains a major issue, the committee has concerns as to how system and operational architectures will be used. Indeed, it is unclear if an effective process is in place to use the system and operational architectures for development and fielding of systems.
The committee believes that the senior management of DOD recognizes many of the issues, such as the need for enforcement and providing sufficient resources for interoperability compliance efforts, but finds managing these issues to be extremely difficult. It is hard to enforce mandatory standards and guidelines across such a large organization. In addition, the term "mandatory" immediately raises the argument that there is legitimate mission-driven uniqueness, an argument that can only be addressed case by case. There is also concern about "unfunded mandates" except in cases where no additional cost is incurred, a rare situation.
The committee recognizes the limitations of an approach to
interoperability that is based on enforcement. Effective enforcement of
directives depends on enforcing bodies that have the authority to stop projects,
resources to inspect the projects for which they are responsible, and
willingness to exercise their authority.30 Under such an arrangement, only a few programs can be influenced, and many others can escape the oversight and enforcement process. Nevertheless, particularly in the short run, there seems to be no viable alternative to enforcement as a management strategy. In the long run, interoperability will flourish only if DOD is able to promote a culture in which interoperability is valued, and in which individuals have strong incentives to build interoperable systems where required to support joint and defense-wide operations. Fundamentally, program managers must feel that their programs have failed unless they are interoperable. The Institute for Military Information Technology proposed in Recommendation P-3 (see section 4.8) would be an important venue for fostering a culture that values interoperability more highly, and would provide an environment supportive of the requisite cross-service collaboration.