GAO Says Military Has Same IT Problems As Civilian Agencies

A study says IT-related barriers are restraining the military from executing its strategy in areas such as Iraq.
Many of the same IT problems that confront civilian agencies--lack of standardization, disparate information systems that need to communicate with each other, and training--are hampering the military on the battlefield.

True, U.S. combat actions in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq in recent years have been widely regarded as an unparalleled display of military might. Behind the battlefield successes are highly integrated force networks that combine information supremacy and advances in technologies for surveillance, communications, precession weapons, and other areas to secure the advantage and swiftly vanquish the enemy.

Still, according to a Congressional study issued Monday, IT-related barriers exist that inhibit continued progress in implementing the new strategy. In a 55-page report sent to chairmen and ranking minority members of the Armed Services Committees of both houses, the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, contends certain obstacles restrain sustained progress in executing the new strategy. Specifically, the GAO cited four interrelated areas that standout as key:

* A lack of standardized, interoperable systems and equipment, which reduces effectiveness by requiring operations to be slowed to manually reconcile information from multiple systems and limiting access to needed capabilities among military services.

* Continuing difficulties in obtaining timely, high-quality analyses of bombing damage, which can slow ground advances and negate other improvements in the speed of operations.

* The absence of a unified battlefield information system to provide standardized measures and baseline data on bombing effectiveness, which creates confusion about the success of new tactics and technologies, about assumptions used in battlefield simulation programs, and about procurement decisions.

* The lack of high-quality, realistic training to help personnel at all levels understand and adapt to the increased flow of information, more centralized management, and other changes in the operating environment brought about by the strategic changes.

The GAO recommended that the Defense Department take steps to improve standardization of information used in bombing operations, address continuing problems with battle-damage assessments, develop a unified battlefield information system to improve analyses of combat effectiveness, and develop realistic joint training to help personnel adapt to emerging changes to the operating environment. In a response to the GAO findings, the Defense Department generally agreed with the recommendations and stated that it is addressing the issues raised in a variety of continuing efforts.

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