DOD hustles on DMS

DOD hustles on DMS

Rear Adm. Richard W. Mayo says DMS is not particularly user-friendly.

Services find meeting Sept. 30 deadline a tough challenge

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

The military services are scrambling to move their most basic messaging from the aging AUTODIN to the Defense Message System to meet the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Sept. 30 deadline.

Originally, the AUTODIN shutdown was to have begun in December. But when it became clear that the services would not be ready, the Joint Chiefs set the new fall deadline [GCN, Jan. 24, Page 1].

To make sure the services keep apace of the new schedule, the Joint Chiefs said they would pull the plug on the antiquated service if need be.

The Defense Department is ramping up users to DMS in phases.

The first group of users that must cut over to DMS by Sept. 30 are support personnel.

The Defense Information Systems Agency intends to complete AUTODIN's shutdown by 2003, when the final group of users, tactical and intelligence forces, will switch to DMS.

The Navy will switch off AUTODIN for shore-based, nontactical installations on time, said Rear Adm. Richard W. Mayo, the service's director of space, information warfare, command and control. The service has completed 70 percent of its effort to install DMS at 3,900 sites.

The Marine Corps plans to shut off its AUTODIN access for nontactical users by Sept. 15, said Maj. Christopher J. Michelsen, DMS project officer at the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va.

The Air Force, while scaling back its DMS deployment, will likely meet the deadline but will need 'good luck all the way,' said Janet Pandzik, the service's DMS program manager.

Although the Army had completed only 25 percent of its DMS rollout to 8,500 users by June, the service will make the deadline, said Col. Robert Raiford, the Army's DMS program manager at Fort Monmouth, N.J.

Through the DMS program, DOD is replacing AUTODIN, which has handled the transmission of secure communications for 28 years [GCN, July 5, 1999, Page 37]. To secure messages, users will rely on Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes mail clients, along with the Fortezza authentication system, which uses PC Cards with 56-bit keys and the Data Encryption Standard.

Little by little

Making the shift to the new system is complex, in part because of the phased-in approach.

The Navy's Mayo pointed out that his service will have to maintain two secure messaging systems and continue to staff its message distribution centers until all users cut over to DMS.

'Manning two systems is not ideal,' Mayo said. Originally, the Navy planned to field DMS software to all its shore-based organizations. But it scaled back that plan, eliminating shore-based offices that support Navy fleets. 'If it's fleet, it's tactical,' he said.

The Marine Corps is following a similar plan. The Corps will maintain the message centers it has used for transmitting AUTODIN classified messages, Michelsen said. Messages come in through the centers and are routed manually to recipients in Outlook 98 or Outlook 2000.

Funding also has been a complicating factor, Mayo said. 'This is a bigger issue, bigger than the Navy' because of training costs and budgetary challenges, he said.

In 1996, the Pentagon mandated DMS use for tactical DOD users. 'It took time for the services to get funding' to meet that requirement, Mayo said.

Mayo outlined the issues that ultimately led the Navy to set a conservative DMS rollout plan:

•'The cost of supporting both AUTODIN and DMS for three years, including training users

•'Problems synchronizing the two message systems

•'A lack of tools to automate creation of DMS address lists

•'A lack of interoperability with allies' messaging systems

•'The inability to fully handle top-secret messages.

'DMS has not always been user-friendly,' said Mayo, who has brought that criticism before DISA and the Joint Chiefs' Military Communications Electronics Board.

'It's just not something that you can turn on one day' and begin using, he said.

As evidence, he pointed to a thick training manual created by the Air Force for its DMS users, which Air Force officials have nicknamed 'DMS for Dummies.'

Training takes time

'Of course training jumps in there' as a reason for restrained deployment, said the Air Force's Pandzik, who manages her program from the Standard Systems Group at the Gunter Annex of Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.

The service is deploying DMS to communications centers at 90 main sites and about 130 backup locations. The main sites are mostly active-duty posts; the backup sites generally are National Guard and Reserve facilities.

The Air Force also reined in its DMS rollout because it lacked personnel at its communications centers to manage any broader deployment, Pandzik said.

It is 'very manually intensive' to create e-mail lists in DMS, Mayo said. The Navy alone must create 2,000 such lists by September, he said.

Pandzik said she has a team of workers devoted to creating the mailing lists.

The Army's Raiford said none of the services met interim deadlines set by the Joint Chiefs. When it gave the services the reprieve on the December deadline, the Joint Chiefs said it wanted each service to have 50 percent of its garrison AUTODIN users on DMS by May 15, with 75 percent using DMS by June 30.

'Now the focus is on meeting the Sept. 30 goal,' Raiford said.

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