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CHIPS Articles: Vice Adm. Nancy E. Brown

Vice Adm. Nancy E. Brown
Director for C4 Systems, The Joint Staff (J-6), discusses joint and coalition interoperability
By CHIPS Magazine - January-March 2008
Vice Admiral Nancy E. Brown is Director of Command, Control, Communications, and Computer Systems (C4 Systems) of the Joint Staff, where she advises the Chairman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff on all C4 Systems matters. She is also the Joint Community Warfighter (JCW) Chief Information Officer (CIO), serving as the principal advocate for combatant commanders' C4 network-centric requirements and the actions necessary to deliver capabilities to meet their needs.

In August 2006, Vice Adm. Brown published the Joint Net-Centric Operations (JNO) Campaign Plan, providing a unifying strategy to better integrate and synchronize joint community transformation in order to facilitate maximizing delivery of joint netcentric warfighting capabilities. The Plan directly contributes to the DoD transformational efforts and meets C4 challenges posed by the global war on terrorism. The Plan is a living document, with its action items published only online and with the changes incorporated to reflect new strategic guidance, direction and policy.

One of the overarching components of the net-centric vision is the Global Information Grid (GIG), an organizing and transforming construct for managing and sharing information technology services throughout the Department. The GIG is designed for users to plug and play in an environment that is global, robust, survivable, maintainable, interoperable, secure and reliable where information is visible, accessible and understandable. The GIG will enable optimal global information sharing capabilities that will provide enterprise access to the edge. Although the Defense Department is making progress in achieving this vision, obstacles to interoperability remain.

Recently, Vice Adm. Brown participated in the AFCEA sponsored International Military Communications Conference 2007 (MILCOM 2007), where she led a well-qualified panel of top military leaders through a discussion of some of the obstacles to interoperability including: policy, technology and procedures.

As a result of this panel, CHIPS invited Admiral Brown to discuss interoperability challenges and possible solutions in November 2007.

CHIPS: Pointing to the technology when problems in interoperability arise is easy; you and the panel members talked about barriers to interoperability and information sharing that go far beyond technology compatibility, which many in the MILCOM audience found surprising.

Vice Adm. Brown: Absolutely. This can be surprising, until we take a moment to frame the issue within the broader context of 'mission accomplishment.' First, consider that the No. 1 goal of interoperability is information sharing. Coalitions of international partners, U.S. government agencies and joint military organizations require interagency collaboration, transparent flow and accessibility to information to realize mission accomplishment.

While it is true that technology, which serves as the platform for moving information, is the first item pointed to when interoperability fails, I argue it is only a subset of the problem. I contend that our policies, organizational barriers and previously implemented technologies limit our ability to leverage information as a strategic asset in achieving the Department's mission.

Consider that the ability of an organization to share knowledge and information is predicated on that organization's cultural temperament, the policies in place and accepted pace of change within that establishment. If the culture of an organization is not taken into consideration, changing the manner in which information is exchanged is an uphill battle.

Historically, accountability for information sharing has highlighted the negative reinforcement (in other words, penalties), that takes place when information is improperly shared. Until Sept. 11, 2001, there was little mention ever made of accountability for NOT exchanging information; the culture was based on need to ‘know’ versus need to ‘share.’ We learned a hard lesson that day, and now we are well on the way toward breaking those paradigms and addressing the problem.

Rapid change is another challenge that can impact effective information sharing. In today’s environment, our requirements, acquisition and budget processes struggle to keep up with the warfighters’ needs. As adversaries quickly adapt their methods of operation, our processes and policies do not afford us the same advantage.

In a recent address to the acquisition community, General (James) Cartwright, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed this issue perfectly. He stated, and I will paraphrase that, ‘We operate in a 30-year construct for acquiring capabilities to defend ourselves and need to deal with an enemy who is operating in some cases on a 30-day or 30-minute cycle. Our Eisenhower-based R&D construct needs to change, so we can operate more effectively on a global stage.’

We need to change to where we can integrate technology more rapidly in order to impact warfighter effectiveness. Changing to a global mindset will allow us to better serve forces that are operating on a global vice regional scale. As we do this, we must ensure our coalition partners are moving forward with us.

Additionally, we must remain ready to deal with the unexpected, as we saw from the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005. That incident highlighted that unanticipated missions, such as tsunami and hurricane relief operations, compound the need for information sharing by bringing together globally-diverse organizations that must operate with unanticipated partners in unique environments.

We ‘get’ this in the J-6 community, and are taking proactive steps to address the issue. For example, as part of our initiative to enhance information sharing across the Department and with our coalition, interagency and other mission partners, we are working to reduce the number of unique networks with those partners while strengthening our agility to accommodate additional, unanticipated players and events.

In addition, the Department of Defense recently published an Information Sharing Strategy and is developing its associated Implementation Plan to accentuate the importance of information sharing at the Departmental level. A goal of the strategy is to promote, encourage and incentivize information sharing by clearly articulating an important message. The message is that information sharing is an economic reality and that the community will gain significant advantages by leveraging transformational gains beyond technology that will help us become more efficient in mission accomplishment.

Clearly, we acknowledge that technology is a touchstone of this mindset. But we equally acknowledge that the aspects of culture, policy, governance and resourcing are just as important when attempting to realize the promise of information sharing.

CHIPS: What are some of the things that can be done short-term and long-term to correct these problems?

Vice Adm. Brown: In the short term, the acceptance of both new information sharing processes and technology is critical to successful implementation. The Department’s culture and ‘business as usual’ expectation must evolve toward habitually sharing information and data. We can influence that by taking some basic steps to do the following:
• Building a culture of trust, where we enable collaboration without jeopardizing individual missions;
• Changing practices that stifle information sharing (need to know versus responsibility to share);
• Revising training and professional education that negatively impact sharing;
• Developing specific incentives for information sharing behavior, with leadership backing and follow-up and;
• Researching, developing and implementing technologies that empower information sharing while providing the security to be effective in a variety of diverse missions.

The overarching goal should be to create a culture and organizational processes that leverages the technical infrastructure, enables innovative funding, provides governance and delivers metrics to support new enterprise models that address an extended enterprise inclusive of our mission partners. These are just a few of the things we can do to change the organization’s mindset to one of a ‘responsibility to share.’

Another short-term initiative the Department is reviewing focuses on the Interoperability and Supportability (I&S) certification process. We intend to use this review to revise policy documents which guide combatant command, service and agency capability development. To date, we discovered that enforcing compliance with existing policies benefits interoperability and information sharing.

We are challenged in that the Department’s existing governance structure, boards and panels mainly focus on ensuring interoperability, supportability and information assurance throughout the acquisition process. However, technology integration should be the foundation of this process; therefore, we must work toward the use of service oriented architectures, common standards and proper implementation of those standards with the mindset of enhancing information sharing capability.

Long-term, the Department will focus on delivering capabilities to warfighters and coalition/mission partners that provide a seamless information sharing environment where others (such as those unanticipated partners) are able to join in efficiently.

In addition, we are developing and implementing Departmental net-centric Data and Service Strategies designed to make data and services more readily ‘Visible, Accessible, and Understandable’ to authorized users. This will include building capabilities that more easily consume the data and services produced by others and marry that knowledge with the right mix of identity management, country trust and user roles, so knowledge becomes accessible across the battlespace upon demand.

As a result of these short and long-term efforts, smaller programs are now coming through the pipeline today in compliance with the Department’s net-centric Data and Services Strategies. This facilitates our move away from the legacy pointto-point, system-to-system configurations, and more to the Internet, Web-like ‘many-to-many’ information sharing network configurations.

We are cautious and realize not every future capability needs to be “net-centric”; mission requirements will dictate the medium. Some mission sets will continue to require the quality of service, quality of performance and redundancies provided by point-to-point and system-to-system types of configurations.

These requirements are based on time, reporting requirements and other operational parameters. Examples of that include ballistic missile detection and a limited number of C2 based on national priorities.

We acknowledge this, but remain ready to capitalize on those opportunities to influence information sharing where we can. Along the way, we will make smart decisions, based on portfolio management and cost-benefit analysis considerations, when it comes to whether or not a legacy system should be ‘modified or upgraded’ to comply with net-centric data and service requirements.

CHIPS: Do the services have unique problems to information sharing or is there commonality?

Vice Adm. Brown: The services do have some unique problems; however, there is a greater degree of commonality across the Department in the problems they are facing. That commonality is hindered by operational employment and independent solution development.

I would argue that acquiring capabilities using joint solutions could significantly reduce the barriers we encounter with information sharing. The challenge then moves toward seeking agreement on configuration management standards and sound operational tactics, techniques and procedures.

Future operations will require warfighters, regardless of service, to operate in coalition and interagency environments. That requirement, by definition, emphasizes the need to move away from solutions that impede the need to share.

CHIPS: We talked briefly about IPv6, could it be an enabler for information sharing? Do you think the new capabilities it will bring could fix some of the problems that we have right now?

Vice Adm. Brown: Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) provides numerous capabilities in support of achieving net-centric operations, but does not address all the issues we currently have. IPv6 offers the opportunity to provide secure and available communications for all levels of command, communications on the move, and enhanced information sharing and collaboration.

The enhancements of IPv6 over Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) in support of net-centric operations increase our capability to deploy large numbers of networks and improves both mobility and ad-hoc networking. In addition, speed and security improvements are provided through integrated confidentiality, integrity, and authentication and quality of service elements.

The end state of IPv6 is improved network efficiency achieved through simplified administration, more efficient use of bandwidth and reduced complexity. All of these enhancements are vital to our ability to implement strategies for assured information sharing, but as I noted earlier, the technology is just a component of the overall equation.

While many potential benefits exist for implementing IPv6, the transition must be executed in a manner that does not diminish warfighter effectiveness. Technology, process, culture and other elements all combine to address the challenge of achieving information sharing. As with any advance in technology, if we continue to operate in the traditional mode, we never gain the advantage the new technology offers.

CHIPS: Can you talk about your office’s progress in deploying IPv6?

Vice Adm. Brown: We continue to move forward with preparations for deploying IPv6. Key elements laid out in the Department’s transition strategy include a requirement that all future procurements, acquisitions and developmental products be IPv6 capable, while continuing to operate in an IPv4 enabled environment.

My staff is currently supporting the development of the DoD IPv6 Address Plan, which is a great improvement from the IPv4 Address Plan. The plan supports transition from an organizational addressing scheme (IPv4) to a net-focused approach and provides administrative guidance and technical specification of IPv6 address allocations for DoD and the Intel Community.

The administrative guidance defines organizational relationships and functions to efficiently allocate IPv6 addresses and ensure global uniqueness. The technical specification is to support efficient routing and defines the IPv6 address field hierarchy, syntax and semantics.

The IPv6 plan changes the approach for allocation of address space. IPv4 address space was allocated by organization. IPv6 addresses are allocated by network, which provides greater operational flexibility for commanders. Addresses are allocated to customers based on classification, region, and network.

Classifications are: Unclassified, Secret and Top Secret. Geographic regions are aligned with geographic COCOMs: CONUS, Europe, the Pacific, Southwest Asia, South America and Africa. Independent regions are for mobile and deployable systems.

Finally, we continue to address the challenges to effectively transition to IPv6. As part of this transition effort, the Department will have to operate in a hybrid IPv4/ IPv6 environment for some time. We must continue to ensure we understand all the technical security features, weaknesses and exposures of IPv6 standards, products and practices.

To be successful, we will depend on industry to accelerate and develop applications that highlight the benefits of IPv6 to the warfighter. We also are supporting the DoD Master Test Plan that establishes the operational criteria that must be demonstrated during the transition to IPv6.

CHIPS: Gen. John Abizaid, the former commander of U.S. Central Command said, “It takes a network to defeat a network,” in reference to al Qaeda and its network of terrorist groups as well as how terrorists have been able to exploit technology. Have there been new counterterrorist solutions to help warfighters in the areas of intelligence, force protection and subduing violence since the general made this statement?

Vice Adm. Brown: That’s really an operational question, and I will have to defer to the operational community for the specifics of your query. However, I can address the fact that we recognize terrorists are operating freely in cyberspace. While we as a fighting force are uniquely capable of using cyberspace, we are also vulnerable to the ever-increasing threats our adversaries pose in this domain.

The linchpin of modern warfighting is a robust network-enabled joint force, able to securely share information and who possesses a common understanding of the battlespace. Protection and control of cyberspace is therefore imperative. Key to this effort is the implementation of a National Military Strategy for Cyberspace Operations (NMS-CO).

This strategy lays the foundation for actions necessary to securely operate in cyberspace, increases trust and builds the warfighters’ confidence in this domain for sustained, determined operations supporting both national and homeland security. I see the NMS-CO as our contribution to the joint community for leveraging the dimensions of net-centricity and information sharing in support of warfighter operations.

The No. 1 goal of interoperability is information sharing.

Building a culture of sharing across the Defense Department’s culture and “business as usual” expectation must evolve toward habitually sharing information and data. We can influence that by taking some basic steps to do the following:

• Building a culture of trust, where we enable collaboration without jeopardizing individual missions;
• Changing practices that stifle information sharing (need to know versus responsibility to share);
• Revising training and professional education that negatively impact sharing;
• Developing specific incentives for information sharing behavior, with leadership backing and follow-up; and;
• Researching, developing and implementing technologies that empower information sharing while providing the security to be effective in a variety of diverse missions.

– Vice Adm. Nancy E. Brown Director for C4 Systems, The Joint Staff (J-6)

For more information about the work of the Joint Staff, go to

Vice Adm. Nancy E. Brown
MILCOM Orlando, Fla. – Oct. 31, 2007. Vice Adm. Nancy E. Brown, Director for C4, The Joint Staff, led a panel discussion focusing on joint and coalition interoperability. Other panelists included, Rear Adm. Kendall L. Card, Director, Command Control Systems, North American Aerospace Defense Command/U.S. Northern Command J6, and Brig. Gen. David B. Warner, Director, Command and Control Programs, Defense Information Systems Agency.
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