DOD's top priority for 2004 is data networking

When rolling out a suite of core enterprise apps next year, DOD will also account for tactical users in the field, DISA's Dawn Meyerriecks says.

Henrik G. de Gyor

Joint military networking will make a breakthrough next year when the Defense Department unveils an integrated, scalable IT infrastructure for core enterprise services.

'I'm really bullish on the whole command, control, communications, computers world going into 2004,' said Paul Brubaker, a principal at ICG Government in Reston, Va., and a former deputy CIO at Defense. 'If you look at the capability that's being developed to ride on its expanded bandwidth network and the architecture, I think those are things that will be hot for 2004.'

DOD will acquire more bandwidth, add storage to its large data networks and begin a four-year transition to IP Version 6. And to underscore its commitment to network-centric warfare, the department will offer 11-week courses on the concept through its Office of Force Transformation.

Integrating disparate data networks is a top priority, DOD brass said. The ultimate goal'which will take years to realize'is for weapons to operate as nodes on Defense networks, allowing them to communicate machine to machine.

Next year, the department will begin taking delivery of new bandwidth through its $800 million Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion project, which will cover fiber-optic network services, hardware and software.

GIG-BE, a worldwide, ground-based switched optical network with 10-Gbps or faster connections, will serve Defense users at 100 sites around the globe. GIG-BE will replace the Defense Information Systems Network, a Synchronous Optical Network with 2.4-Gbps transmission rates, said Tony Montemarano, GIG-BE program director.

By September, Montemarano said, GIG-BE will be operational at 10 sites. The program will add 10 more sites by next December and finish global deployment by September 2005.

With GIG, the department hopes to field a ubiquitous IP network on which it can run what Montemarano called a suite of transformational applications and services.

The Defense Information Systems Agency will spearhead this suite of core services, which have been dubbed Network-Centric Enterprise Services. It will offer GIG users an initial set of common services, including messaging, collaboration, storage, platform, security and accessibility.

Distributed computing

The networking initiative will provide the infrastructure for major Defense applications, said Dawn Meyerriecks, DISA's chief technology officer and head of its GIG enterprise services engineering unit.

The program aims to set up an environment for distributed computing that employs commercial object technology and Web services, Meyerriecks said.

By the end of March, DISA plans to publish a list of the core enterprise services along with implementation schedules.

'By using information services that are standardized, the complexity that normally gets pushed off to the user is gone. Now the user sees a simpler interface, and the complexity is behind the screen,' said John Osterholz, DOD's director of architecture and interoperability.

Such standardization will establish within DOD an 'unprecedented level of interoperability,' Osterholz added.

But moving to common services connected via Web services poses challenges, Meyerriecks said. Using Web services is not a good standard because the policy and information security challenges are huge, she said.

Another hurdle is establishing real-time processing for military operations, Meyerriecks said. 'There are certain things we will put in later.'

One of the elements DISA plans to add is greater support at the tactical level.

'My concern based on what we found from Operation Iraqi Freedom is that these programs don't address the last tactical mile,' said John J. Garstka, an assistant director for concepts and operations in the Office of Force Transformation.

Interoperability concerns

Meyerriecks agreed with Garstka about the difficulties of coalition interoperability. But she said DISA is focused on improving tactical networking.

For example, Meyerriecks said DISA is acting as the system engineer to support the Tactical Control System, which is designed to bring satellite communications to the battlefield. The Army is the lead agency for the Joint Tactical Radio System, which will provide high-speed IP coverage to tactical forces.

'At the services level, DISA must design the Network-Centric Enterprise Services to support the tactical user community,' Meyerriecks said. 'This includes such capabilities as smart proxy caching to support timely and efficient warfighter pull of needed data, bandwidth-sensitive collaboration tools and transcoding technology.'

Basically, she said, every core service must have a corresponding component that accounts for tactical realities on the battlefield.

Garstka said the focus on both networking and interoperability next year would require DOD to emphasize network warfare training at its war colleges and service academies. He said DOD must get military personnel thinking earlier about the characteristics of war in the information age.

'Right now, it's possible to graduate from these institutions and get a master's degree and not fully understand how a networked force fights because the theory is still maturing,' Garstka said.

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