Training shortfall postpones DMS start-up until summer

The Defense Information Systems Agency gave a pop quiz for the Defense Message System
late last year, and many of those who will operate the system came unprepared.

 DISA judged that "the amount and level of training for people in the field
probably needed to be expanded," said Jerry Douglas, DMS advanced programs director
for Lockheed Martin Corp., the prime contractor for the $500 million program.

 Additional training will likely push the final tests of the global e-mail system
back to June.

 "I think it set us back 60 or 90 days," Douglas said. "It was a
little bit of a bitter pill to swallow."

 The initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E), the final hurdle before DMS
goes live, was scheduled for last fall, then January. It is now set for June, but Douglas
said the delays do not reflect program weaknesses. Except for the need for training, DISA
"did not find any problems in the system that we were not aware of," he said.

 Final testing will take place at ten military bases in the United States and
Germany. The sites are all installed and have been up and running, getting over the
learning curve."

 DMS will be an integrated messaging network for 2 million users in the Defense
Department and CIA. Although the ultimate goal is a single global network carrying all
levels of DOD traffic, the initial operational configuration will handle only sensitive
but unclassified information. 

The system will be upgraded every year to add secret, top-secret and sensitive
compartmented information by 2000. 

DMS program manager Tom Clarke said last fall that it could be as late as 2007 before all
levels of traffic can move on a single, integrated network.

 So far, e-mail applications from Microsoft Corp., Lotus Development Corp. and
Enterprise Solutions Ltd. have undergone conformance testing for the Government Open
Systems Interconnection Profile's X.400 message handling and X.500 directory
standards. 

The three also have passed compliance with the P42 message security protocol and the
AUTODIN P772 protocol. 

The first system test, for functional security and performance, began late last summer at
Fort Detrick and Fort Cheltenham in Maryland, Gunter Air Force Base Annex, Ala., and Fort
Huachuca.

 "It's basically done," Douglas said. "They have one more test they
are going to conduct-the field test." He said he expects that to begin late this
month.

 The pop quiz for the DMS products was conducted for DISA shortly before Christmas by
the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Command. The training deficiencies came
about partly because some trainees had been rotated out and replaced by untrained
personnel.

 But even those who had undergone training did not perform well enough, DISA
officials concluded. Beginning next month, Lockheed Martin will provide improved training
for new personnel and refresher courses for those who already have been through the
program.

 "When the training is developed, they do the best they can to determine what is
going to be needed in the field," Douglas said. Those needs will change as DMS use
spreads, he said. 


About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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