Transformation Requires Business, Military Cultural Change
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 14, 2004 Private-sector information technology providers and military leaders will need to change the way they think and do business if transformation of the force is to be truly successful, a senior U.S. official noted here.
DoD's future calls for integrated computerized information systems that instantly connect commanders with troops on the battlefield, Michael Wynne, acting undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, noted May 13 at the annual TechNet information technology conference.
While "the vision for tomorrow is a thoroughly integrated, horizontal battlefield," Wynne pointed out to attendees, "the systems and systems engineering is not quite there yet to allow us to do that stuff."
One roadblock to information transformation across the military could involve developing overly sophisticated, redundant -- and expensive -- systems that drain defense funds, Wynne explained.
Another concern, he noted, is that software-dominated projects crucial to information transformation efforts are routinely managed poorly.
"Where are the systems engineers and the discipline of tools first and products second?" he asked. "Where is it written that software manufacturers do it right the first time and need no discipline and no help?"
Wynne noted that software makers perhaps are inspired to get their products to market as soon as possible, but such practice could leave DoD with glitch- filled equipment. The upcoming Joint Strike Fighter and F/A-22 Raptor, he noted, require tens of millions of lines of software code.
"Frankly, the standard rules of (software) configuration control, requirements flow-down, and agreed-to content just aren't being enforced," Wynne observed.
Another issue involves brainpower, he pointed out. Although the United States currently enjoys an advantage in information technology, he noted that "we're losing engineering and technical talent" to overseas firms.
Foreign-born graduates of U.S. engineering schools, he said, are "returning to their home countries" instead of taking employment with American firms or research and development centers. This is happening, Wynne noted, because some engineers find it more exciting to work for overseas firms with fewer rules and regulations than U. S. technology companies.
Also, he noted, information technology "quality is rampant" in India, Singapore and Japan.
Wynne compared what is now happening in the U.S. information technology industry with what had occurred in the late 1970s and 1980s when American automobile manufacturers lost market share partly due to poor vehicle quality.
It's now time for the U.S. information technology to "wake up," he asserted.
Another critical element needed to effect military transformation "is changing the culture of power over information," Wynne observed.
"It is no longer enough that the flag officers and their staff have access to the knowledge we now gather," he said, noting information "needs to be routinely made available, useful and transferable among squad leaders, helicopter pilots (and) special operations team members as well."
And that information, he emphasized, "must be accurate, comprehensive, integrated, networked, common-to-all, unambiguous, consistent and reliable."