DEFENSE IT

Joint Forces Command shares data across security levels

A project at the Joint Forces Command lets users exchange text messages and whiteboard-based graphics across varying levels of security classifications

The military’s varying levels of security classification — unclassified, secret, top secret — can sometimes slow down the exchange of information. For example, a Navy watch officer might have to send a text message on three separate computers, over three separate networks, and enter the message three separate times: once for unclassified, once for secret and once for top secret.

That’s one reason the Joint Forces Command is working on a project that lets users exchange text chat and whiteboard-based graphics across networks with varying levels of security classifications. The project, Cross Domain Collaborative Information Environment, was a 2008 Joint Capability Technology Demonstration, said JFCOM’s Capt. Timothy Spratto.

The current military system uses multiple networks for different levels of security, he said. The result is that users often have to send the same message three times over three different networks. Entering data in triplicate introduces the risk of error, as well as increases the likelihood of mishandling the classification of the material, Spratto said.

Now, with the CDCIE, the watch officer can send the same message once, on one computer, over one network, Spratto said. It provides a trusted gateway between two or more networks of different security classifications to allow information sharing. A user on a top-secret network can share information with users on unclassified networks, and vice versa, he said. “The lion’s share of information can be shared without having to switch systems,” he added. “And if you’re spending one-third less time entering information, it frees up two-thirds of that time to spend on doing something else.” It could be particularly useful for warfighters, he said.

Not only does the CDCIE let users communicate across classification levels, it also lets them text chat in different languages. It works with available language translation packages so that CDCIE users can read text in English from JFCOM’s multinational partners.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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