DOD issues bandwidth solicitation

DISA doubled the number of workers in the program office to ensure GIG-BE gets the attention it needs, Tony Montemarano says.

By mid-June, the Defense Information Systems Agency plans to award a contract for bandwidth and services to connect about 90 military sites worldwide to the Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion network.

DISA released a request for proposals for the fiber-optic network this month and will accept submissions until April 8.

An RFP for the second phase of the GIG-BE program, which will cover networking hardware, is expected to go out later this year, program director Tony Montemarano said.

Double the strength

DISA's director, Gen. Harry Radeuge, restructured the GIG-BE program office in early February, increasing its government and contract staff from 50 to 100 workers, to ensure that the $877 million, 10-year program received greater emphasis, Montemarano said.

Previously, GIG-BE was one of several efforts run within DISA's Network Services Directorate. Now, it has its own program unit.

DISA said it might award as many as nine contracts under GIG-BE but also will consider combining services under a single contract.

'We will be reviewing the proposals very expeditiously,' Montemarano said. DISA officials have said they want to begin rolling out GIG-BE later this year. 'There's intense pressure to move on this thing.'

The military has become increasingly reliant on high-capacity bandwidth to run its many voice, video and data technologies, and the war with Iraq is fueling an even greater reliance on such tools, top Defense officials said.

During the 18 months U.S. forces have been in Afghanistan, warfighters have been using nearly 800 Mbps of throughput, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Charlie Croom Jr. This compares to approximately 250 Mbps in Kosovo and about 100 Mbps in the first Gulf War, Croom added.

GIG-BE will provide an answer to the long-running problem of insufficient and poorly managed bandwidth that continues to plague the Defense Department and is often a key topic of discussion at Defense conferences, said Croom, the Air Force's director of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

'Since I was a second lieutenant, all I've ever done was fight for bandwidth,' he said. 'First it was voice, then data, then video. There was always a fight for bandwidth.'

The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence is 'trying to get bandwidth off of our table as an issue for us,' Croom said.

Still, one high-ranking Defense official said she would have preferred if the department had not been forced into building the GIG-BE network. 'I would have liked us not to have done a GIG-BE,' the official said. 'I would have loved us to run on the public Internet, but the Internet doesn't have a security mechanism to allow us to do that.'

Montemarano said, 'While the Internet is a successful environment, security woes are intolerable to the kinds of traffic we're trying to carry.'

GIG-BE will be a worldwide, ground-based switched optical network with at least 10-Gbps OC-192 connections. Eventually, DOD hopes to provide GIG-BE connections at all its installations around the world.

In the RFP, DISA said the winning vendor or vendors will establish fiber service delivery points as well as oversee network management, information and physical security, and commercial transport leases.

Each fiber contract will run for a two-year base period with eight one-year options.

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