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Vice Chairman Says Pace Needs to Quicken on DOD Reform

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While the Defense Department is modernizing and undergoing needed reform and improving readiness, adversaries are moving even more quickly in those areas, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. 

Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten said if the department doesn't speed up its efforts, a time could come when adversaries overtake the United States and erode its deterrence advantage.

Man in uniform talks to people whose backs are to the camera.
Hyten Meeting
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks to industry representatives before his speech at an Air Force Association’s breakfast in Washington, Jan. 29, 2020.
Photo By: David Vergun, DOD
VIRIN: 200129-D-UB488-001

Hyten, who spoke today at an Air Force Association breakfast in Washington, provided some examples of areas where speed matters greatly.

Although the U.S. Space Force has officially become the sixth branch of the military, a lot of hard work still needs to be done very quickly this year, he said.

Space Force now has around 16,000 people. That number will grow, Hyten said, though it remains to be seen which personnel from the other branches, including the National Guard, will be added.

Also needing to be identified is how DOD's funding pie is divided and what portion will be allotted to the Space Force, he said. Lawmakers, who have been very supportive, will be especially eager to hear progress being made in those areas, the vice chairman said.

The important thing to note, he said, is that the space domain will be increasingly significant to national security and the creation of the Space Force was the right thing to do.

Jet refuels from tanker.
Aircraft Refuel
Two F-15C Eagles from the 67th Fighter Squadron refuel with a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 909th Air Refueling Squadron during Exercise WestPac Rumrunner, Jan. 10, 2020.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Matthew Seefeldt
VIRIN: 201010-F-VT057-1010

The other domains — cyber, air, land and sea — are also important, the general said, noting that the Air Force has spearheaded creation of the Joint All-Domain Command and Control program.

Data is critical to linking sensor to shooter in all domains across the joint force, Hyten said. Thus, a crucial part of the new all-domain program's efforts will be integrating all of the services' data, which requires that the data be accessible, available, standardized and optimally structured.

"If you have all of the data, then artificial intelligence is actually possible," Hyten said. "If you don't have the data, artificial intelligence is not possible. If we get the data piece right, then everything will move forward."

Another topic that needs speedy reform is software development, Hyten said. "We don't do software well in the Department of Defense," he acknowledged, "but we have to."

Man in uniform speaks into microphone.
Hyten Meeting
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks at an Air Force Association’s breakfast in Washington, Jan. 29, 2020.
Photo By: David Vergun, DOD
VIRIN: 200129-D-UB488-002

Hyten said he has visited software development companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere over the years. "I was stunned by two things," he said. "Stunned at the amazing talent that leads the world and that is better than anyone in the world at developing software applications and tools, and how completely different it was [from] how we build software in the Department of Defense."

The department needs to quickly learn how to develop software like the successful civilian developers do it, he said. "That means we're going to have to change the processes of how we do that," he added.

A special area that needs reform is classification, the vice chairman said, noting that too many things are classified that don't need to be.

Hyten said DOD will look at ways to make more information unclassified to enable sharing important information with industry, allies and partners.

DOD is a risk-averse organization that must learn to make speedier decisions and actions where calculated risk is deemed prudent, Hyten said, and people who do take calculated risks must not be punished when failure results.

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