Center for Strategic Decision Research



Moving from Interoperable to Integrated Systems

Mr. Kent Schneider
President, Defense Group,
Northrop Grumman Information Technology

From the beginning of this workshop, starting with Minister Jung, we have heard that the threat has changed, the mission has changed, and the diversity of the mission has changed and that all of those changes require more rapid and agile decision making. I realize that the vast majority of the people at this workshop are not information-technology professionals but they are information-technology users, so they must recognize that you cannot make effective decisions if you do not have the information that you require to make them. They also must understand that when you try to make decisions within a complex enterprise framework such as NATO or the European Union, you have to be able to share information effectively across the entire enterprise.


General Wolf talked about the dichotomy between national interests and the enterprise requirements of NATO and the European Union and how it can inhibit moving forward with information technology. We also heard several times that, in addition to needing more rapid decision making, we have a more complex set of players and that the new focus on counterterrorism has caused an increase in the number of players who need to share information and make decisions. The conventional defense community of course is still a player but so are police organizations and state and local organizations. That makes information sharing even more complex because those additional people typically do not share the networks and systems that the conventional defense players play in.

The good news is that information systems are evolving to support this new set of demands. We are seeing more distributed systems with the ability to share information and still retain control over sensitive data. But coordinated effort on the part of NATO is essential for implementing these new capabilities. NATO member-nations certainly are investing in modernization and replacement of information infrastructure and systems as they must, but in these days of constrained budgets we want to be sure that those investments are as effective as possible in supporting both the state and the Alliance. That, unfortunately, does not always happen.


Admiral Ed Giambastiani, the past commander of NATO ACT, repeatedly reminded us that NATO needs to shift emphasis from interoperability to integration. Why? Because interoperability brings us to the lowest common denominator, the ability to move information from one system to another rather than to share information as it is stored. It is also because interoperability is very expensive: If you are developing national systems and then go back and spend money to make them interoperable you invest twice in the same solution. The need to shift our focus to integration is becoming even more important as technology shifts to promote enhanced collaboration and information sharing in a global environment and as defined network boundaries begin to disappear.

The investment in new technologies does not mean that NATO member-nations have to give up unique functional content or control of sensitive national data. It does mean that common standards, governance rules, and consistent implementation of core technologies that enable collaboration and information sharing must be agreed upon. To go back to General Jones’ comments in response to Lin Wells’ question about who is responsible for the decision making in this area, his answer was clear: that it is the people at this workshop and the other decision makers within NATO and the European Union who need to make the decisions on governance rules and how information is going to be shared. This, as SACEUR agreed, is the appropriate role for the decision makers.

Let me give you one example of a technology that is growing in importance and being modernized and replaced throughout Europe today but not in a very efficient way. That technology has to do with identity management and the associated establishment of access to the most broad-based information sharing. Virtually every nation in NATO is engaged in developing, improving, or standardizing national-level identity management systems. But, in fact, many countries within NATO are developing multiple systems that are not even compatible within their own nation. The national health system, for example, may be generating an identity management system to ensure that health services are delivered to only the most appropriate people. At the same time, the passport service may be generating an identity management system to ensure greater control at the border. But the two systems may not be compatible within the home country and I can tell you for a fact that they are not compatible across the NATO nations. The result is that there are islands of networks that can share information only at points of interface and that is going to be a large inhibitor to wide-scale information sharing.


Standard business rules in governance need to be consistent across NATO. Industry stands ready to work with NATO to move toward common standards and governance, but, as I said earlier, the people at this workshop and the other decision makers in NATO need to establish the information sharing policies and communicate them to industry and allow us to work with you to help move in that direction. As General Wolf mentioned, you need to be able to reconcile your national interest with the Alliance interest in developing integrated systems if you are to optimize your decision making process.


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