of effective, collaborative, multi-service military operations across a wide spectrum of scenarios, and successful conduct of operations is the ultimate test of whether an adequate degree of interoperability is being achieved. Joint Chiefs of Staff Publication 1-02 defines interoperability at both the technical and operational level (Box 2.1).2 Operational interoperability addresses support to military operations and, as such, goes beyond systems to include people and procedures, interacting on an end-to-end basis. Implementation of operational interoperability implies not only the traditional approach of using standards but also enabling and assuring activities such as testing and certification, configuration and version management, and training. These definitions of operational interoperability encompass the full spectrum of military operations, including intra-service/agency, joint (inter-service/agency), and ad hoc and formal multinational alliances.

Interoperability at the technical level (see Box 2.1) is essential to achieving operational interoperability. An issue that arises between systems rather than between organizations, technical interoperability must be considered in a variety of contexts and scopes, even for a single mission. Consider the theater missile defense mission, which is likely to require that data be:

  •  Exchanged among elements of a weapon system. For example, the Patriot air defense system uses a defined message format and data link to exchange information within batteries and between batteries to share target information and coordinate defensive actions.
  •  Exchanged between weapons systems of a single organization or service . For example, the Theater High Altitude Area Defense system (under development) will provide theater ballistic missile tracks to Patriot systems.
  •  Exchanged between weapons systems of different services. For example, a Navy AEGIS radar may report tracks to an Army Patriot radar.
  •  Shared and "pooled" at the joint task force command and control systems level (or higher) in order to achieve synergy and added value . For example, Patriot, AEGIS, and Airborne Warning and Control System data may be combined to develop a common operating picture and to control and coordinate all the systems sharing data.

The range of complexity of requirements for data flow in such a mission underscores the significance of interoperability at every level.


Joint Chiefs of Staff. 1998. Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, as amended through December 7, 1998, Joint Publication 1-02, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C.

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