Joint Military Operations:

Weaknesses in DOD's Process for Certifying C4I Systems' Interoperability

NSIAD-98-73: Published: Mar 13, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 13, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) whether Department of Defense (DOD) organizations are complying with interoperability testing and certification requirements for command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) systems; and (2) what actions, if any, are needed to improve the current certification process.

GAO noted that: (1) DOD does not have an effective process for certifying existing, newly developed, and modified C4I systems for interoperability; (2) many C4I systems have not been certified for interoperability and, in fact, DOD does not know how many require certification; (3) improvements to the certification process are needed to provide DOD better assurance that C4I systems critical to effective joint operations are tested and certified for interoperability; (4) DOD organizations are not complying with the current interoperability testing and certification process for existing, newly developed, and modified C4I systems; (5) according to Test Command officials, many C4I systems that require interoperability testing have not been certified or have not received a waiver from the requirement; (6) the extent of this noncompliance could have far-reaching effects on the use of such systems in joint operations; (7) noncompliance with interoperability testing and certification stems from weaknesses in the certification process itself; (8) while DOD guidance requires that all new systems be certified or obtain a waiver from certification testing before they enter production and fielding, systems proceed to these latter acquisition stages without being certified; (9) this occurs, in part, because Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) Joint Interoperability Test Command officials lack the authority to compel DOD organizations to submit their C4I systems for testing; (10) although DOD guidance spells out a specific interoperability certification requirement, many DOD organizations are unaware of it; (11) others simply ignore the requirement because it is not strictly enforced or because they do not adequately budget for such testing; (12) another fundamental weakness in the process is the lack of a complete and accurate listing of C4I systems requiring certification and a plan to prioritize systems for testing; (13) as a result, the Test Command may not be focusing its limited resources on certifying the most critical systems first; (14) prioritization is important since the Command has reviewed only about 100 systems per year, and a requirement for recertification of modified systems continually adds to the number of systems requiring certification; and (15) the process does not include notifying the services about interoperability problems, and the Test Command has only recently begun to contact the services regarding the noted problems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Interoperability Improvement Panel (IIP) process will establish procedure for identification, coordination, and resolution of C4I interoperability issues. The IIP will follow up on C4I interoperability problems identified during exercises, determine an initial "lead," and support activities and identify actions required to reach issue closure or resolution. The Joint Staff J-6 and J-7, JITC, and C4ISR Joint Battle Center are key sources in identifying and defining issues and recommending solutions. The IIP charter has been amended to reflect that CINCS, SERVICES, AND AGENCIES will identify C4I interoperability issues resulting from exercises for consideration by the IIP.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should request that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff direct the Joint Staff (in collaboration with the commanders in chief, the services, and the Director, DISA) to develop a formal process to follow up on the interoperability problems observed during exercises, report the problems to the relevant DOD organization, and inform organizations that the systems are required to be tested for interoperability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agrees with need for prioritization. JITC will test and certify in accordance with priorities established by the process. JITC can raise test scheduling and resource conflicts to the Interoperability Test Panel (ITP) for resolution.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should request that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff direct the Joint Staff (in collaboration with the commanders in chief, the services, and the Director of DISA) to develop a process for prioritizing C4I systems for testing and certification.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Interoperability certification fields have recently been added to the DIST. The content options of the field include full certification, limited certification, and no certification. In addition, there is a "certification comments" field where information relating to why the system did not achieve full certification may be entered. The DIST also provides "certified by" and "certification date" fields. The Joint Interoperability Test Command has provided DIST personnel with the past four years of certification information for entry into the DIST and is providing quarterly reports of new systems certified in order to maintain accuracy of the DIST.

    Recommendation: To improve the process for certifying C4I systems for interoperability, the Secretary of Defense, in collaboration with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should direct the Director, DISA, to ensure that the status of system's certification is added to the Defense Integration Support Tool and that this database be properly maintained to better monitor C4 systems for interoperability compliance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Interoperability certification fields have recently been added to the DIST. The content options of the field include full certification, limited certification, and no certification. In addition, there is a "certification comments" field where information relating to why the system did not achieve full certification may be entered. The DIST also provides "certified by" and "certification date" fields. The Joint Interoperability Test Command has provided DIST personnel with the past four years of certification information for entry into the DIST and is providing quarterly reports of new systems certified in order to maintain accuracy of the DIST.

    Recommendation: To improve the process for certifying C4I systems for interoperability, the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, should direct the service secretaries, in collaboration with the Director, DISA, to verify and validate all C4 data in the Defense Integration Support Tool and develop a complete and accurate list of C4I systems requiring certification.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with recommendation and stated that documents requiring certification existed but their clarity needed improvement. DOD has drafted revisions to Reg. 5000.2-R which clarify that Joint Interoperability testing of C4I systems must be tested and certified by JITC prior to Milestone II.

    Recommendation: To ensure that systems critical to effective joint operations do not proceed to production without due consideration given to the need for interoperability certification, the Secretary of Defense should require the acquisition authorities to adhere to the requirement that C4I systems be tested and certified for interoperability prior to the production and fielding decision unless an official waiver has been granted.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Interoperability Test Panel (ITP) charter has been amended and requires the panel to approve or disapprove requests for Interim Authority To Operate (IATO) and track IATO expiration dates, notifying the responsible service or agency ITP members representatives approximately 90 days prior to expiration date.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's information on the status of waivers from interoperability certification, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should establish a system to monitor waivers. The system should inform DOD organizations when waivers expire and request that they either seek an extension of the waivers or test their systems for interoperability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Joint Chiefs of Staff

 

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