Kelley departs, says DISA should stay

Kelley departs, says DISA should stay

Army Lt. Gen. David J. Kelley, who calls his five years at DISA 'one hell of a ride,' will leave his director's job in June.

Outgoing agency director says DOD needs an organization that ensures end-to-end interoperability

By Bill Murray
GCN Staff

Looking back over his three-year tour of duty at the Defense Information Systems Agency, Lt. Gen. David J. Kelley said he has tried to bring a warfighter's perspective to his work at DISA.

A native of Lafayette, La., Kelley graduated from West Point and spent part of his early years in the Army commanding a company in Vietnam. Those experiences formed an understanding that would stay with him throughout his 34-year military career, even to his post as DISA director.

Kelley said he learned that commanders should not get too far away from the 'tip of the spear' because if they do not understand the needs of warfighters, there is a 'tremendous ripple down effect.'

But when Kelley retires and steps down as DISA director in June, he will leave amidst rumors about the future of the agency.

Although there have been rumors that the Space Command might take over management of the Defense Information Systems Network and that DISA could be disbanded, Kelley said there is still a need for a DISA-like organization within the Defense Department.

Only a central organization can 'ensure end-to-end interoperability for the warfighter,' he said.

'Those rumors are discussions that have been going around the department for years,' said Marvin J. Langston, deputy chief information officer for Defense.

That DOD brass decided to move the Joint Task Force for Computer Network Defense (JTF-CND) under the Space Command is not a precursor of DISA's demise, Langston said. The command took over JTF-CND Oct. 1. Previously, the organization worked out of DISA headquarters with the task force chief reporting to the secretary of Defense.'There's nothing to be read' into Kelley's retirement, said Arthur L. Money, assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence. Kelley's departure coincides with the end of his tour of duty at DISA, Money said.

Kelley said that his warfighting experience in Vietnam combined with assignments both in the United States and abroad taught him the importance of systems that could be used interchangeably by joint forces.

For example, the DISA-managed Global Command and Control System is the 'linchpin of interoperability' across different commands, he said.

One big DISA challenge on the joint front in the coming months will be ensuring the continued financial viability of the Defense Information Systems Network, Kelley said. This is especially true given that the Navy will let vendors bidding on the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet project submit proposals that do not incorporate use of the DISN communications backbone.

To use a network other than DISN for long-haul communications, the Navy would have to get an OK from Money, Kelley said. Money will only approve the use of an alternative network if it is less expensive and offers better performance than DISN, Kelley said.

With DISA officials expanding DISN's capability, the 'bump in the information superhighway' is more likely to occur at the post, camp and station level, Kelley said.

'We now order T3 lines or above, when we used to order T1 lines or below,' he said. But it can take six months or more for many local exchange carriers to lay fiber-optic cables and increase bandwidth because of high demand, Kelley said. 'It used to take 60 days' for such work to be complete. DISA officials are working with local carriers to decrease the delays, he said.

All about team

As he heads into retirement, Kelley praised DISA employees and the contractors who work with them. 'They're the best team,' he said. 'They have a team spirit of the highest order.'

Kelley's move up through the ranks was through a series of command postings with signal units, beginning in 1969 with the 176th Signal Company in the 78th Signal Battalion of the 1st Signal Group at Fort Lewis, Wash.

In 1991, Kelley became the director of Army systems management in the Office of the Director of Information Systems for command, control, communications and computers. In 1993, he moved to the Joint Chiefs of Staff as vice director of command, control, communications and computers. He came to DISA in 1995 as vice director, taking over DISA command after Lt. Gen. Albert Edmonds retired in 1997.

Kelley said he plans to take an industry job but is not sure yet what that job will be. 'I want a challenging job,' whether it is working with computers or in another field, he said.

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