Implementing the Joint Information Environment (JIE) is a huge challenge but well worth the effort. It repre- sents an opportunity to create an integrated environment for information protection, transmission and sharing. Achieving this
objective would enhance our nation’s
joint warfighting capability and save
resources in the process. Unfortunately,
doing so has been a struggle.
The armed services were mandated to implement the JIE in 2012,
but progress with the initiative has
been slow going. Numerous memorandums as well as strategic guidance
and declarations from the most senior
Defense Department leaders have not resulted in more
substantial achievement in the JIE endeavor. The pertinent
questions that follow are: How critical is this objective, and
what can the department do differently to ensure we reach
the finish line?
I view achieving the JIE’s objectives as extremely important, and I suspect I am not alone in this position. The drivers
behind the original vision link two major operational imperatives. First, modern warfare, weapons platforms and the
supporting force-projection structure rely on trusted information at the speed of need. The ability to seamlessly share
information across all battlespace domains—land, sea, air,
space and cyberspace—gives the U.S. military an asymmetric
advantage and enhances joint military effectiveness.
As a nation, we expend a lot of energy and resources moving information across domains and between platforms to
achieve information dominance. This demonstrates our
appreciation of information’s value, but it calls into question
the effectiveness of our methods, which leads to the second
imperative. We no longer can afford to devote so much time
and money to providing duplicate capabilities to generate
dominance in an era when both resources and decision cycles
Given this reality, what can be done to advance the JIE
effort? What should we be doing differently?
Let’s examine the source of the problem. The struggle
seems to stem from a December 2012 JIE execution order
(EXORD) that directs Defense Department components to
participate in the JIE effort and align resources to enable its
objectives. However, the EXORD did not include the necessary tools to enable implementation. As a result, progress lags
Establishing a Joint Force Component Command (JFCC)
that is responsible for information dominance and made up
of service components would be a move in the right direction.
This would create an organization with the mission, authority and incentive to make the JIE happen. Aligning the JFCC
under the U.S. Strategic Command makes sense because this
JIE Is an Opportunity We Cannot Afford to Let Slip Away
BY LT. GEN. MIKE BASLA, USAF (RET.) functional command has elements of information dominance
embedded in its other mission sets for strategic deterrence,
space operations, cyber operations and C4ISR.
In addition to establishing a responsible military organization, we also must address the tale of the purse strings. The
strategy of allowing the services to align their information
technology modernization is not working. Simply put, not
enough money exists to do all that the services are asked to
do. Budgets have been declining with the drawdown of the
wars, sequestration and the additional burden of maintaining legacy infrastructure and systems while acquiring new
systems. Adding another mandate within the services’ total
obligation authority (TOA) likely will make it DOA, or dead
on arrival. The JIE does not make it above the cut line when
the services rack and stack a long list of must-do items. Project
timelines have been stretched to the point where achieving full
operational capability seems doubtful. A firm milestone mandate, together with dedicated resources, will put a stake in the
ground and signal the department’s commitment.
Finding additional funds is not a reliable expectation, so
redirecting existing information technology modernization
funds from other service activities offers the best alternative.
This will ensure that dollars are used as intended and in a manner aligned with JIE objectives. The Defense Department will
need a strong central authority to identify those dollars and
oversee the effort. This falls logically into the chief information
officer (CIO) lane. Congress already has passed portions of
the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act
(FITARA), which provides the CIO with greater authority over
the services’ information technology decisions and efforts. That
authority now should be expanded further. Acquiring information technology and administering it in a centralized manner is an industry best practice that the Defense Department
could adopt. Congress also can help by inserting JIE directive
language into the National Defense Authorization Act and by
requiring progress reports.
The convergence of the services’ information technology
into the JIE offers significant operational and fiscal advantages.
Putting teeth into the effort—in the form of a CIO authority
and resources—will help lead to successful implementation.
One needs only to take a page from the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (ICITE) playbook to validate this position.
After we complete the JIE and
ICITE, our next step should be
to bring these two environments
together. This would further
enhance the power of information by accelerating its dissemination—but we will save that discussion for another time.
Lt. Gen. Mike Basla, USAF (Ret.), the former chief of information dominance and chief information officer of the U.S.
Air Force, is the senior vice president of Healthcare, Litigation
and Enterprise IT for CACI.
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