||C4I: Realizing the Potential of C4I
The committee believes that an
appropriate augmentation of current DOD activities for promoting and
facilitating C4I interoperability should focus on three areas: more
cross-service testing that starts early in the development process, an
increased emphasis on end-to-end field testing, and greater end-to-end
interoperability support in operational contexts.
Recommendation I-2: The Secretary of Defense should
establish a joint C4I integration and interoperability activity to address
integration and interoperability throughout the entire life cycle of C4I
- Cross-service testing starting early in the development process. In particular, the testing component of current interoperability
efforts is technically oriented and directed primarily at system-to-system
testing when the development effort nears completion. Testing in general is
oriented toward standards compliance or system acceptance rather than mission
performance. The committee believes that to the extent possible,
interoperability should be analyzed, assessed, and driven "top-down" by
considerations of operational significance as well as facilitated "bottom-up"
by the C4I technical community. Focusing on systems within a mission slice,
such testing would augment current efforts by testing at application and data
layers much earlier in the development process than current practice, perhaps
even against paper requirements. Early attention to system-to-system testing
for interoperability would make it easier to synchronize the objectives and
time lines of different programs for C4I systems that must interoperate,
reduce the effort needed to achieve interoperability, and decrease the time
line required for addressing interoperability problems in the field by
providing "preventive medicine." In addition, it would avoid the cost and
complexity entailed when problems are fixed late in the development process.
Note that a cross-service development activity is consistent with the desire
articulated by the Secretary of Defense in response to Section 912(c) of the
Defense Authorization Act for FY 1998. Specifically, the Secretary of Defense
expressed interest in ways to establish a joint command, control, and
communication integrated system development process that focuses on developing
a joint architecture to guide design and achieve integrated systems
- Ongoing interoperability assurance in operational contexts. Notwithstanding "best efforts" to address interoperability problems before systems are fielded, unanticipated interoperability problems invariably arise as C4I systems are composed and configured in untested combinations in the field to support particular operational needs. Such problems are increasingly complex, demanding technical sophistication to address "higher-level" issues such as data interoperability. DOD does undertake some activities that address end-to-end C4I interoperability, but the committee is unaware of a process or mechanism in the DOD that systematically addresses C4I interoperability on an end-to-end basis, in a real-world operational setting, in a manner that provides assurance for commanders who will need to support critical operational jobs.
- Interoperability support for deployed forces.
Deployable operational support for interoperability would help joint task
force commanders to address and respond to interoperability problems and
issues as they inevitably arise in the field. Deployed in much the same way
that the Joint Communications Support Element deploys, "field interoperability
support teams" would deploy as an initial cadre with a joint task force first
to guide the interconnection of C4I systems in-theater and then to provide
sustaining support as required, focusing on integrating and ensuring the
interoperability all CINC/service-provided C4I systems (specifically including
decision-making/decision-executing information systems as well as
communications systems). Field integration/interoperability support teams
would involve designated sets of broadly skilled information systems and
networking personnel and tools to support their work. Using specialists who
are intimately familiar with C4I systems being deployed would increase the
likelihood that interoperability problems could be resolved under the extreme
time pressures that characterize many operational deployments. Because they
would be intimately familiar with the design and development foundations of
fielded C4I systems, field integration support teams would have an important
advantage over today's deployed "signal" units with respect to certain classes
of problems. In addition, they would have the technical background to be able
to speak knowledgeably to system suppliers and vendors to obtain high levels
of technical support to fix interoperability problems in the field (e.g., by
obtaining software patches).34
The committee also notes that force interoperability would be more easily achieved, and the burden of field integration reduced, if planning for contingencies were less ad hoc. Deliberate operational planning--perhaps in conjunction with predesignation of joint task force commanders--by the force provider would permit much better advance knowledge of which forces would be called upon to interact in a given contingency. With such knowledge, the force provider would be in a better position to focus testing, training, and the like, so as to maximize the interoperability of forces that would be called upon to carry out a particular deployment.
Development, field testing, and operational support
draw on the same knowledge and experience base and are inherently
synergistic--testing builds expertise that is valuable for field support, and
field activities improve future design, development, and test efforts. Also,
as an organization that includes both developers and testers, and that has
direct contact with end users in the field, a joint C4I integration and
interoperability activity would provide a collaborative environment that would
foster less adversarial relationships more akin to those increasingly evident
in the commercial sector (see section 2.4
To build and sustain the expertise that field integration/interoperability teams need in order to be able to address interoperability problems "on the fly," the joint C4I integration and interoperability activity would have a peacetime role that includes:
- Interaction with users. The joint C4I integration
and interoperability activity would interact with users in the conduct of
acceptance tests as well as the subsequent readiness tests that are used by
forces in deciding whether to field an accepted system. During its site
visits, the committee observed several instances of such collaboration.35 Conducting cross-service/agency interoperability tests. This work would include identifying and synchronizing test opportunities as programs progress through their individual development cycles (within the spiral model framework).
- Participation in joint and service-sponsored tests and exercises.
- Education and training of personnel on interoperability issues. For example, the joint C4I integration and interoperability activity would train field operational personnel to prevent the decreased interoperability that can result from applying ad hoc solutions to field problems.
- C4I configuration and version management. The joint C4I integration and interoperability activity would develop rules and guidelines to identify configurations of C4I systems--including software and hardware versions--that are known to interoperate with others and provide codified guidance to operational commanders as to what units and C4I systems would interoperate in a deployment.
- Development of fixes and work-arounds to resolve interoperability problems. Dealing with interoperability topics at the
"higher level" demands being conversant with variations among successive
software and hardware releases associated with a particular product line or
functionality. This knowledge would also be transferred to operational
commands in the form of advice as to what units and systems could and could
not be made to interoperate in a deployment.
Doing the work described above would keep personnel familiar with the "building blocks" that could be delivered to the field and from which an end-to-end joint capability would be configured.
During exercises and operational deployments, the joint C4I integration and interoperability activity would offer advice to commanders in planning deployments and provide field support to fix interoperability problems. The technical expertise regarding C4I systems, together with the operational perspective gained from its involvement with joint exercises and deployments, makes the joint C4I integration and interoperability activity a powerful mechanism for improving the coupling between the development community and the community of users.