Defense Messaging System hits its stride

DISA awards Lockheed Martin $750 million contract to keep program moving ahead

A few years back, the mere mention of the Defense Message System would have had users decrying its inadequacies.

And they weren't the only ones.

Previous interoperability tests slammed DMS for shoddy security. A Pentagon operational test and evaluation director once concluded that an earlier version of DMS was 'not operationally effective.' There were missed deadlines and program delays, coupled with the fact that military users found DMS hard to implement and favored the old bulk-messaging system known as AUTODIN (Automatic Digital Network).

These days, things appear to have leveled out a bit with the organizational message system. Last year, DMS became fully operational at more than 500 locations worldwide, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Network Integration and Infrastructure last May gave the OK to enter the sustainment phase of its lifecycle.

The system is used by about 50,000 organizations within DOD, including those that support the global war on terrorism.

Most recently, the Defense Information Systems Agency awarded a contract, potentially worth $750 million, to Lockheed Martin Corp. to maintain and support the program.

The indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract runs for one base year with nine one-year options and was awarded to Lockheed Martin's Integrated Systems and Solutions division of Gaithersburg, Md.

The original DMS contract, awarded in 1995 to Lockheed and valued at $1.6 billion, expires April 30.

Under the sustainment contract, Lockheed will address fielding issues, perform system upgrades, conduct technology refreshes and ensure security layers are in place, according to Poul Jorgensen, DMS program manager for Lockheed.

Common platforms

'The Defense Message System was conceived to take a bunch of disparate e-mail across all the services and agencies and bring together some common platforms that would bring interoperability across the services in a secure and reliable manner,' Jorgensen said.

The services and Defense agencies use DMS to send e-mail messages at all classification levels. Through the messaging system, users can also send maps, drawings, video and spreadsheets, and access directory services.

Lockheed integrated numerous versions of Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Notes and directory services into DMS.

Officials also have said that AUTODIN is more expensive to operate because it requires Defense employees known as specialized communicators to record, copy and, in some cases, distribute electronic messages.

'DMS provides message service to DOD users, interfaces to other U.S. government agencies, allied forces and defense contractors,' said Cynthia Keal, DMS sustainment program manager. 'It will reliably handle information of all classification levels'from unclassified through top secret, including intelligence community compartments/categories.'

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