Joint Staff urges DMS team to drop X.400-only approach
- By Gregory Slabodkin
- Aug 25, 1997
The high-level review team recommended expanding DMS, which is built around the
international X.400 message protocol, to a dual-protocol architecture that would include
the Internet's Simple Message Transfer Protocol.
The review called an inclusive architecture a more flexible implementation of DMS that
would not restrict the potential 2 million DOD users of DMS to the X.400 infrastructure.
Although the DMS architecture may be evolving with the incorporation of commercial
technologies, Joint Staff officials insisted that the underlying goal of DMS has remained
DMS must provide a seamless, interoperable messaging system to the warfighter that
works equally for tactical and nontactical traffic across all classification levels, the
"Some high assurance unique functions will be necessary to satisfy high grade
messaging, especially where national security interests are at stake," the Joint
Staff review said. The review stressed the need to enhance system flexibility, rely on
commercial products and incorporate technological advances.
The panel, which got input from the services and agencies, this month briefed acting
assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, computers, communications and
intelligence Anthony Valletta about its findings.
The DMS review exists in briefing chart format only. The Joint Staff will detail its
findings in a report within the next 30 days.
Valletta's staff and Defense Information Systems Agency officials are evaluating the
recommendations and weighing possible revisions to DMS program requirements.
DMS officials at DISA said they would not comment on the Joint Staff study until the
evaluation is complete.
But outgoing DISA director Lt. Gen. Al Edmonds in June said that the agency had
downsized DMS' grand design because "technology has moved fast and we need to adjust
ourselves to adopt the technology changes."
DMS contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. also declined to comment.
Lt. Gen. Douglas Buchholz, director of the Joint Staff's Command, Control,
Communications and Computer Systems Directorate, requested the four-month study. He asked
that the Joint Staff team re-examine the department's nearly 10-year-old DMS requirements
in light of commercial developments.
DOD requirements laid out in the 1989 Multicommand Required Operational Capability
served as the architectural guidelines for DMS, including computer communication protocol
DMS' design is based on X.400 and X.500 international standards to meet messaging and
directory service requirements. These standards have also been accepted by NATO in the
Allied Communications Publication 123.
But a lot has changed in the world of commercial e-mail systems since these
requirements were established, the review said.
"Technology has gotten a lot smarter since DMS was defined years ago," a
Joint Staff official said. "You don't replace an aging dinosaur like AUTODIN with a
baby dinosaur. The world is changing and DOD needs to take advantage of that. We need to
get to the point where we don't have to rely on a dedicated DOD network but on a global
In 1988, when the DMS program began, X.400 was a robust, well-defined messaging
protocol and SMTP was not, said Keith Attenborough, DMS product manager for Lotus
"Now, almost 10 years later, SMTP is the commercial de facto standard within the
continental United States," he said. Messaging and data sharing have also changed, he
Nevertheless, some DOD officials said they are skeptical about replacing AUTODIN with a
messaging system based primarily on commercial products and innovations for the tactical
There has been discussion as to whether X.400 or SMTP is better, one DOD official said.
"Industry has big money, and it might be best to follow them. But solutions for
the commercial world and Defense are not always the same," he said.
SMTP, which handles e-mail, is more easily implemented than X.400 but remains less
robust and less capable of handling nontext data.
X.400 has the capability to transport virtually any data, alleviating the need for
separate stovepipe data transmission systems.
"The panel reiterated the need for multivendor product interoperability, a
hallmark of the DMS program since its inception in 1988," according to a Joint Staff
Lotus, Microsoft Corp. and Enterprise Solutions Ltd. of Westlake Village, Calif., have
been developing interoperable versions of X.400 client messaging software that will work
over Open Systems Interconnection or TCP/IP networks and X.400 protocols.