I recently posted on the Average Geniuses social media/blogging platform on the topic of TAK titled: TAK: What is it, why the rage? To my very surprise got a lot of reaction and love from the community and for good reason. In my way, I think there needs to be a forcing function to change. We just are not there yet - we do a good advertisement campaign but the acquisitions process and procedures are just slow. To put it in perspective I was personally introduced to TAK in the winter of 2020 by a motivated and out-the-box thinker.
His community had already been experimenting and using TAK to conduct operations and execute missions but had one problem. They couldn't move the data in a meaningful way for anyone to do anything with it. To be honest I had heard of it in the spring of that same year but it was missing one thing that could operationalize it - an ATO. An authority to operate (ATO) in short is required to install and operate information systems within the DoD, reference DoD Instruction (DoDI) 8500 series on Cybersecurity and Risk Management Framework for DoD Information Technologies.
2020 - 2021
This was a long two years for TAK for me personally as I spent many emails and phone calls trying to track down some meaningful paperwork that I could use to bring TAK to fruition. After many failed attempts I finally found a resource. Someone already working an ATO from the ground up. One problem they were stuck. As part of the process software needs to be registered in a centralized database for approval before it can be registered as a requirement - per see. Having served in a position that had gone through this process before I was there to help. After getting the software registered we ran into another roadblock. The ports required for TAK to communicate were not registered with Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) - insert reference DoDI 8551: Ports, Protocols, and Services Management (PPSM). From registration of the requirement to the approval of the required ports it took me about 5 months for this whole process.
Finally, an ATO. Insert new problems...
It wasn't until the summer and fall of 2021 that we finally obtained an ATO. It was about this time that the whole TAK buzz finally started to be heard within our organization. This would not go without fail as the words "NO" and it's not a "Program of Record" started to fight the whole TAK initiative. Why do I bring it up? I'd say it's a failure to adapt. We talk a big game or no game about joint all-domain command and control or interoperability but are we doing it or doing it at a rapid pace? Probably not. Was I after money or people's jobs? No. I wanted to get a better tool out there that provided interoperability and flexibility on a grander scale than our current software solution. It additionally doesn't help that I found out years later that the reason we are stuck with this 30-plus-year-old software is that the software is written in black and white into our policy and training.
Can we change all this? Yes but just like this journey it will take time. Time we may or may not have - it's neither here nor there.
What's my Point?
TAK has been hiding in the shadows in my eyes for longer than three years but is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Insert the year 2023. We are almost midway through the year and TAK still hits the same roadblocks. I'm hoping those things will change as we have proven that it can do more than they think. My other point is the acquisition process sucks - we all admit and say it but nothing happens fast enough in my lens. Additionally, instead of saying NO, say maybe or let's try. When you say no, can't, or won't you have already set it up to fail without even trying.
Finally, I leave you with this. I know nothing will change overnight - I get that. Empower our young leaders, and senior leaders - support them. I thank all the leaders who helped me along my journey and supported me. You created a monster! 😁
A man who cannot command himself will always be a slave. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not reflect or necessarily represent the views of the DoD or its components. The appearance of, or reference to, any commercial products or services does not constitute DoD endorsement of those products or services. The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute DoD endorsement of the linked websites or the information, products, or services therein.