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CRA Testimony on the FY 2000 DOD Budget Request

given by John Gannon, Chair, Department of Computer Science, University of Maryland,
and Member, Board of Directors, Computing Research Association

before the Subcommittee on Defense, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. House of Representatives

March 25, 1999

Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee. Thank you very much for this opportunity to comment on FY 2000 appropriations for the Department of Defense. I am John Gannon, Chair of the Computer Science Department at the University of Maryland. I am testifying today on behalf of the Computing Research Association, an alliance of about 180 academic, industrial, and other organizations involved in and devoted to computing research.

Today I would like to address DoD's special role in the interagency Information Technology Initiative and urge the subcommittee to fully fund the proposed FY 2000 activities at $100 million. This is a small price to pay for maintaining DoD's capacity to respond to and shape the information revolution and for supporting strategic imperatives concerning information superiority.

The Information Technology Initiative, as you probably know, is a six-agency effort to revitalize the federal investment in information technology R&D to ensure the U.S. economic lead in IT well into the 21st century and to enable technologies that meet public needs and objectives, including, through DoD's participation, national security. The initiative implements the recommendations of an independent, Congressionally-chartered panel, the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC), which found that the federal investment in information technology R&D is inadequate, especially long-term, broad-based IT research that generates new capabilities and innovations the fuel of the information technology industry and of the information technology revolution.

In its report, the advisory committee described how information technologies are rapidly transforming many aspects of society: the way we work, the way we learn, the way we communicate, as well as how we design and build things and conduct research, health care, commerce, and manufacturing, to name a few. These transformations are having and will continue to have significant impact on the way the Department of Defense meets its vast and challenging responsibilities, and especially on warfighting.

In February, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, John J. Hamre, testified before the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittees on Military Procurement and R&D and emphasized the importance of information technology to the DoD mission:

Information technology has provided us with a means to insure a military advantage over our adversaries while actually reducing our force structure. These technologies have made precision strike and focused logistics possible. They allow us to hit a target with one missile, and manage our logistics requirements so efficiently that we can move forces much farther and quicker and sustain them than we have ever been able to do before.
DoD's strategies for IT R&D follow from broader defense and warfighting strategies developed at higher levels in DoD and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In particular, Joint Vision 2010 identifies the imperative of information superiority to U.S. objectives. Again, the Deputy Secretary said it better than I could:
Information superiority is essential to our capability to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It is a key enabler of Joint Vision 2010 and its four fundamental operational concepts of dominant maneuver, precision engagement, full dimensional protection and focused logistics because each demands obtaining, processing, distributing and protecting accurate information in a timely manner while preventing our adversaries from doing so. Without achieving Information Superiority we will, very simply, not be able to achieve the goals established in Joint Vision 2010.
The DoD and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in particular has always been at the forefront of information technology R&D. You are no doubt aware that the Internet, for instance, originated from DARPA's efforts in the 1960's and 1970's to meet communications needs and challenges. DARPA has made significant contributions to many of the computing and communications technologies that have become critical to the defense mission. DARPA's role as an innovator in IT research must be further enabled to ensure that the ongoing information revolution is an advantage for and not a hindrance to the U.S. military and our national security and that DoD can meet its strategic objectives in information superiority.

Let me give some further detail about the new funding and the research it would support. DoD has requested $100 million in FY 2000 funding for its activities under the IT initiative. The budget would include the following components:

DARPA's participation in the initiative would be consistent with its overall investment strategy of concentrating on high-risk/high-payoff ideas and technologies with vision and focus. The increased support would enable exploration of new thrusts in hardware and software. A top priority would be research in software for agile networks, that is, expansive networked systems of rapidly re-configurable, or even self-configuring, mechanical, sensing, and control devices. This area has enormous potential for the future of weapons, C3, logistics, and other defense systems. But the development of software to make the devices and communications among them robust enough and fast enough to accomplish precise, sophisticated tasks in real-time is still in its infancy. With your help in providing the funds, DARPA will be a key pioneer in this field.

The value to be derived from new capabilities like these includes performance gains, cost efficiency, and, most importantly, the safety of our troops. For instance, networks of robotic devices that can adapt to their surroundings and accomplish physical tasks, called autonomous systems by researchers, could enter dangerous environments, minimizing the risk of casualties or providing tactical advantages. While the remote operation of robots has become a commonplace, they would be far more useful if we could get them to interact with each other, construct models of their environment, and use them to react and accomplish a precise and complex mission. Rather than remote human operators we would have human supervisors of collaborative robot "teams." The barrier to making these kinds of systems a reality is the great difficulty in designing embedded and networking software to enable collaboration among devices.

Another area where information technologies can revolutionize DoD's operations is in the automation of logistics. Current DoD weapons, C3, and logistics systems are based on hierarchical control, entailing gatekeeping barriers and incurring delays because of unnecessary human interaction. Logistics systems could be made more efficient and more scalable if control was decentralized so that decision-making took place at the source of incoming information. Devising locally competent and efficient mechanisms that can assess situations and take action, while conveying information and intelligence up to higher levels for review, is really hindered, again, by a lack of appropriate software, software that is costly to develop and difficult to test.

The research challenges are daunting: we have to learn how to make machines communicate with each other far more effectively than computers on the Internet, or any existing network, communicate with each other today. We need to be able to reprogram devices remotely and on the fly to alter their capabilities as conditions or as objectives change. (Computing researchers call this deploying mobile code.) While DARPA supports base research efforts in these areas, the time is ripe to make huge leaps forward, and that's what the Information Technology Initiative is all about.

With regard to the other components of DoD's participation in the initiative, ARDA is a joint effort of the Defense Department and the intelligence community to support long-term research on problems and enabling technologies relevant to intelligence and information security. We would also urge you to provide full funding for the University Research Initiative, which is an important mechanism for keeping university-based scientists and engineers involved in defense efforts.

Some final thoughts on the IT Initiative: We cannot rely on the IT industry, despite its phenomenal success in the U.S. economy, to produce the innovations that have the most relevance to defense IT needs. The pace of the IT marketplace is too intense, requiring firms to devote the bulk of their R&D resources to shorter-term applied research and product development. Only a vigorous R&D effort on the part of DoD will ensure the development of IT capabilities designed specifically to meet military and national security objectives.

The IT initiative complements and does not duplicate the High Performance Computing and Communications program. It is designed to address fundamental questions in many facets of computing research, the answers to which will have impact on a broader range of information technologies, not just high performance or high-end computing. Whereas HPCC was about making faster computers in a specified time frame for solving scientific and mission-oriented problems, the IT research initiative is about making computers and networks that are better easier to design and use, more stable and reliable, more secure, and amenable to more users and uses. These objectives are no less important to DoD than they are to society in general, as I hope was clear from the examples above.

In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, it is critical that DoD participate fully in the proposed Information Technology Initiative. CRA urges the subcommittee to provide the requested $100 million dollars to enable these important research activities. Thank you very much for your time and attention. I would be pleased to answer any questions you might have.

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Document last modified on Wednesday, 04-Apr-2012 06:51:14 PDT.