Unlike banks, security brokers, insurance companies and other information intensive organizations (IIOs), the military is not generally considered to be an IIO. Information intensive organizations routinely spend 20% of annual budget on IT products and support. In 2014 the U.S. DoD will spend $39.5 billion or 7.5% of its annual budget on IT. Although a considerable amount it numerically confirms that the DoD does not allocate budget as an information intensive organization.
I started thinking about the DoD IT budget while listening to senior DoD leaders speaking at a conference a few months ago. As a culture, most military leaders would agree that IT is critical to supporting modern military operations, but few would consider IT to be as important as military personnel and the platforms and weapons that support them. Therefore, most would agree that at 7.5% of the DoD budget, the IT spend is consuming a precious amount of annual budget. In that context DoD leadership is generally focused upon improving the efficiency of IT in order that the savings may be applied to additional or improved platforms and weapon system. This, of course, assumes that DoD military personnel and weapons systems will perform as effectively as training activities demonstrate.
However, because the DoD is in the dangerous and life threatening business of National Security, it is critical that DoD platforms and systems deliver both deterrence and military effects when called upon. The more important question then becomes, will the current IT budget deliver effective current and future DoD military capability?
The value of IT for IIOs can be measured in terms of the strategic, transformational, informational, and transactional added value. This simply means that in an IIO business the IT drives strategic opportunities, can create new ways of improving business, supports employee and customer information access, and it can improve normal process efficiency. Using these same IIO criteria within the DoD, it is easy to see that IT adds value within the DoD in each of the same four areas. Precision warfare, the foundation of current military capability would not be possible were it not for IT.
Unlike traditional IIOs, however, within the DoD IT is its own area of cyber operations and/or cyber warfare. Like air warfare, cyber warfare requires that each of the military services effectively defend against modern cyber attacks while participating in the delivery of cyber operations against an enemy if required. This difference is so significant that in the article Time for a U.S. Cyber Force, January 2014 U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, retired Admiral James Stavridis and David Weinstein argue for an independent branch of the armed services to be dedicated to cyberspace:
“Cyberspace, like airspace, constitutes a vital operational venue for the U.S. military. Accordingly, it warrants what the sea, air, and land each have—an independent branch of the armed services.”
If and when the United States decides to stand up a fifth branch of the military dedicated to cyberspace, the defense budget will be stretched to accommodate the needs of the new military branch. Unless the budget grows considerably, such a change would dictate less budget to sustain the current four military branches implying less military service members and less weapons systems in each. The high level politics of military service reductions almost certainly mean that a U.S. Cyber Force is not likely to happen anytime soon.
However, it is not too soon for the military culture of big forces and big weapons to realize that the DoD is a IIO with even more profound IT implications than traditional IIOs. As such, the notion that IT should be more efficient in order to provide additional funds to military platforms and weapons is short sighted. Without effective cyber defenses, DoD weapons may not represent the intended deterrence value, nor deliver the intended destructive effects when called upon.
For certain the DoD should continue to save money by improving IT efficiency, but in the context of an IIO the DoD spends almost 12.5% less than traditional banking, security brokers, and insurance companies. In today’s rampant cyber threat world, the DoD must be certain it is a deterrence and when called upon will deliver military destruction. That can not be accomplished on the funds being applied to IT in the department today. It is time that DoD recognize the information intensive organization implications of not pacing leading edge IT capabilities in support of both traditional operations and ongoing cyber warfare.