Framework needed for network interoperability, group says

Set of architecture patterns would produce cost efficiencies, boost productivity and achieve greater agility

The Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium (NCOIC) pegs the 2010 value of the U.S. aerospace, defense, transportation and security markets at more than $600 billion. It also estimates that 30 percent of this money—about $180 billion per year—is spent to fix systems that cannot interoperate today. In an increasingly constrained budget environment that means $180 billion is spent on systems that cannot enable warfighters and end users to share information seamlessly. 

If the United States addresses and eliminates interoperability issues, that’s a $180 billion windfall that can be shifted away from patches and interoperability fixes and redirected to budget shortfalls or securing increased capabilities for warfighters, peacekeepers, air traffic controllers and other essential end users.  

While all U.S. governmental agencies scramble to preserve budgets, they also want to reap the benefits of commercial technology. Achieving interoperability could help them to do both—just as the Internet delivers seamless, affordable interoperability to its subscribers. Why should it be otherwise for those whose lives are in harm’s way every day?

The reality is that in government, programs are king. The government acquisition community is rewarded primarily for meeting cost and schedule imperatives. Warfighters, end users and operators submit their requirements, but these are boiled down to rigid specifications in the acquisition process. Government contractors’ golden rule is meet the specifications.

What is far too often overlooked is that most existing systems were designed not to interoperate. In fact, many government officials assert that interoperability increases cost and risk. Yet   warfighters wait for the interoperability they don’t have now. 


To make matters worse, government rarely coordinates interoperability plans among its services—or even within its own programs. For the most part the Defense Department tries to integrate systems using information technology alone, when it really needs a robust capability founded on nonproprietary solutions and cross-organizational tools.

The DOD recently published an information reference architecture in an attempt to identify its network-readiness needs. While that was a step in the right direction, it is not a panacea. What’s really missing is DOD’s adoption of a network interoperability framework that would enable it to conduct procurements in the larger context of systemwide interoperability. 

Through NCOIC, leading global defense companies have developed this kind of framework, a set of architecture patterns, and guidance for their implementation. Working together, these historically fierce competitors have invested more than $100 million in response to government’s request for new methods and tools that can propel interoperability. This network interoperability framework is an opportunity for the DOD and industry partnership to find cost efficiencies, productivity and agility in a challenging technology and budget environment.

Reader Comments

Mon, Aug 15, 2011 Interoperability Exepert Northern Va

The idea that the DOD and other agencies lose billions each year due to restructuring existing systems isn't new. Maybe the organization has some good ideas and it's time for the agencies losing billions to find a way to capture new ideas that prevent the loss of good money due to the bureaucratic acquisition system. Stating that the NCOIC is flawed is lookiing at the wrong issues. The NCOIC isn't losing billions the taxpayers are. The NCOIC has shown in it's lab demo the ability to do things governments didn't think industry could accomplish without government dollars. NCOIC has shown it's not the technology or the money it's the thought process. Four companies in the NCOIC are getting a revenue stream using the NCOIC concepts, Boeing isn't one of them. Boeing and several other companies are using some of the NCOIC products to lower engineering costs. Three government agencies are using the NCOIC products in their acquisition process or strategy documents. Not enough to change the world but definitely success.

Fri, Jul 8, 2011 C4ISR Expert Reston, VA

NCOIC has been bragging about its “achievements” for over seven years, but has yet to produce any useful contributions to the quest for C4ISR interoperability. If it has actually spent over $100M as the author states, it may well rank as one of the worst examples yet of waste in the defense industry. Sadly, over 85% of NCOIC’s money comes (indirectly) from the US government and the rest comes from other NATO governments. NCOIC is a failed experiment in bringing defense companies together for cooperative development. It began losing members rapidly about four years ago as they realized that Boeing's vision for the organization it founded and still dominates was benefiting certain member companies more than others or their governments. Since then, it has also suffered from an absence of strong leadership and a myopic focus on crafting technical minutia at a lethargic pace. This article is little more than PR “spin” from a sinking ship.

Wed, Jul 6, 2011 C4ISR Expert Washington, DC

NCOIC has now been drinking its own Kool-Aid for over seven years and has yet to produce any useful contributions to the elusive quest for C4ISR interoperability. If it has actually spent over $100M as the author claims, it may well rank as one of the worst examples yet of bloat and waste in the defense industry. Sadly, over 85% of their money comes from the US government and the rest comes from other NATO governments, both via industry. NCOIC is a failed experiment in bringing defense companies together for cooperative development. It began losing members rapidly about four years ago as they realized that Boeing's vision for the organization it founded and dominates was benefiting Boeing business development more than other members or their governments. Since that time, it has also suffered from an absence of capable leadership and a self-deluding view that its myopic focus on crafting technical minutia at a lethargic pace dictated by a loose assembly of part-time techies could achieve was has eluded some of the best minds in the military. This article is little more than a regurgitation of corporate propaganda from a dying outfit that has failed to deliver for seven years. Defense Systems should have higher standards for publication.

Wed, Jun 29, 2011

I've heard about the interoperability problem for 30 years now.

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