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BMD Focus: Miracles Are Easy, Turf Is Hard UPI Senior News Analyst

The easy part

Washington (UPI) Sep 02, 2005
For the U.S. armed forces' high tech planners, performing miracles is easy: It's breaking down bureaucratic barriers and integrating obsolete systems that is hard.

The Army's Space and Missile Defense Command is up to its high tech eyes in making theater ballistic missile defense work - especially as its headquarters is moving more than a thousand miles to Huntsville, Ala., at the same time. But progress is being made.

As if the challenge facing the Army's planners - to get computers to coordinate theater missile launches in real time across 12 time zones and along 20,000 miles of fiber optic cable - was not awesome enough, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission has made it worse.

For, as part of the wide-ranging closures and restructuring of military bases mandated by the commission, Space and Missile Defense Command will be moving from Washington, D.C. to Huntsville.

Gen. Henry "Trey" Oberling, head of the Missile Defense Agency remains upbeat about the pace of technological progress in the programs he oversees, even though many of his staff are also being forced to move their operations because of the Rumsfeld restructuring.

Speaking at the eighth annual Space and Missile Defense Conference and a follow-up press briefing in Huntsville on Aug. 17, Obering acknowledged that the his agency would consolidate many of its functions in the Huntsville area. The change is expected to affect 2,000 people.

The Army's Space and Missile Defense Command too is going to be moved from down to Huntsville.

Last month, the commission voted 8-0, with one abstention, to move the command's headquarters to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.

The Pentagon said the move would save $349 million and concentrate most of those overseeing the nation's missile defense work under one roof.

The move had been widely expected and is anticipated to eventually greatly help streamlining the Army's enormously ambitious and technically demanding theater anti-ballistic missile programs.

But in the short term it will add to the demands on the Army's information technology coordination and integration programs.

Despite these upheavals, top Army brass remain upbeat the progress they are making with their Globally Integrated Missile Defense program.

The program "is coming together fairly well and it's going to go global," Lt. Gen. Larry Dodgen, commander of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, told the Armed Forces' Communications and Electronic Association Technology Showcase conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. last week.

"It's all coming together on an (Internet Protocol)-based system," Dodgen said. "I am amazed where we have come in just a year's time. We have to get a handle on this as our business and our lives depend on how well we handle it."

But Dodgen and other senior Army generals also admit that even though they are upbeat about how the integrated systems they need to make theater missile defense work are coming along, they still face huge headaches in developing, integrating and protecting wider information technology services across the Army and the other U.S. armed services.

Indeed, the U.S. military may need additional new IT services, according to the head of the Department of Defense's own Defense Information Systems Agency.

The agency already operates nine different IT services under its Net-Centric Enterprise Services program, but that may not be enough, Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, its new director, told the Ft. Lauderdale conference.

Croom said the goal of the enterprise services program was to develop a secure, integrated communications system that would allow the different military services and U.S. intelligence networks to customize their searches and share data.

The lack of interactive computer systems allowing different agencies such as the FBI and the CIA to share vital information was identified by the Sept. 11 commission and other investigate bodies as a major reason for the success of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that killed almost 2,800 people.

But while Croom may add to the number of centralized, standardized IT services provided to all the armed forces, the Army is looking to radically slash the huge number of IT application systems it has acquired over the years.

Some 80 percent of the ones currently operating are to go by 2007, the Army's Chief Information Officer, Lt. Gen. Steven Boutelle said.

Boutelle told the conference that he would submit a consolidation plan to senior service officials before the end of October.

And according to a report last week in Federal Computer Weekly, Boutelle said that Lt. Gen. Jerry Sinn, the Army's budget director, planned to cut the number of different IT applications he operated from 200 to three.

In fact there is no contradiction between the radical integration and reduction of Army IT application systems promised by Boutelle, and Croom's idea of possibly increasing the number of new IT systems to serve all the armed forces together.

For producing inter-service operability remains the holy grail of information managers throughout the U.S. military. It is seen as essential to produce the kind of quick and light, lean and mean fast reaction, integrated joint forces that Rumsfeld and his planners see as the future of the U.S. military.

The scale of the challenge is enormous. Moving long-established military centers, like the Army Space and Missile Command more than a thousand miles to Alabama can only add to it in the short-term, even though it makes sense over the long haul.

But one of the biggest problems is that so many of the armed forces IT systems were set up too soon. Top military experts now acknowledge that the challenge of integrating the programs is enormous because of the complex way they have grown in an ad hoc manner over the years.

Even long-standing inter-service rivalries, the traditional bugbear of U.S. combined operations as far back in World War II, remains a huge barrier to IT integration and interoperability today.

Gen. Dodgen frankly acknowledges that the armed services urgently need to improve their cooperation on IT data sharing.

"We do not have good (lines of) authority (established) for moving (data) across services," he told the conference. "There are (still) no mechanisms in the Department of Defense to force that integration across the services."

"There are no authorities to bring the services together and decide who calls the trade offs," Dodgen said. "Even integrating (IT) architecture will be a major issue."

It is stunning to contrast the gung-ho, can-do confidence with which the Army's senior generals and middle rank techno-wizard's approach the awesome challenges of Theater Missile Defense, or even relocating their headquarters halfway across continents, or projecting their expertise to front line fighters on the other side of the world, to the weary caution, even skepticism with which they face the challenge of upgrading their own old systems or working out ways to cooperate with other services.

For American warriors as well as politicians and businessmen, it seems, no new challenge is ever too great and the impossible can be pulled off with panache.

It is reforming the old, long-established ways of doing things and the petty battles over bureaucratic turf that remains the true "Mission Impossible."

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NGC, EADS, Indra Team To Pursue NATO Theatre BMD Contract
Madrid, Spain (SPX) Sep 01, 2005
Northrop Grumman, EADS and Indra have announced that they have formed an international team to pursue a systems engineering and integration contract that is a key part of the new NATO active-layered theatre ballistic-missile defense program.

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