DISA says DMS is now up to snuff

DISA says DMS is now up to snuff

BY DAWN S. ONLEY | GCN STAFF

Defense Information Systems Agency officials are elated over this month's operational test scores showing the highest marks yet for the Defense Message System's effectiveness.

DISA will start soliciting bids from contractors next year to maintain the system.

The test scores, in the 98 percent range or better, confirm that DMS is an efficient and secure replacement for the aging AUTODIN, DMS program manager Jerry Bennis said.

The Joint Interoperability Test Command at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., conducted the test. The command is under DISA's aegis, but testers report to the Defense Department's Office of Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E). Prior tests slammed DMS for shoddy security.

DISA is phasing out AUTODIN, the 40-year-old bulk messaging system through which users ship electronic memos via hundreds of military message centers. The current plans call for completely replacing AUTODIN with DMS Version 2.2 by September 2003.

DMS' indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract has a $1.6 billion purchase ceiling. But DOD officials estimate that the department will spend roughly $500 million on the contract held by Litton PRC and SRA International Inc. of Arlington, Va.

'We've demonstrated the product can do the job,' Bennis said. 'We felt it was important to give our customers a sense of confidence, and I think we achieved that. Now, it's a matter of leadership.' That confidence has been slow in coming. Previous operational tests on DMS found significant security holes [GCN, April 3, 2000, Page 38].

Put to the test

Defense's 1999 annual report noted that an OT&E test team 'was able to penetrate all but one test site with only a moderate level of effort.'


DMS program manager Jerry Bennis says he is confident the latest version of the messaging system can effectively replace AUTODIN.
The Pentagon's OT&E director concluded that DMS Version 2.1 was 'not operationally effective.'
Then there were the missed deadlines and program delays, entailing several reconfigured versions.

Although DMS products have been installed on command center servers at 247 bases, Defense's senior leaders have been slow to sign on and relinquish AUTODIN.

One reason is the complexity of DMS implementation, said Maj. Chris Michelsen, DMS project manager for the Marine Corps.

'The greatest challenge is operation and maintenance of the certificate management infrastructure, i.e., issuance, maintenance and operation of certification authorities, certificate revocation lists and Fortezza cards,' Michelsen said.

Others have complained that integrating DMS software with the disparate communications architectures at individual military sites is also tough.

But the tide is changing, Bennis said. Program managers for each of the services set a June deadline to start using DMS for bulk messages. Later, the services will roll out individual e-mail service widely.

Bennis has spent a good portion of the past year promoting DMS. DISA created glossy troubleshooting and quick reference guides and is offering computer training. He acknowledges that prior versions fell short and had costly features that did not meet users' needs.

'We did change our plans. We think we're a model of how to do an acquisition,' Bennis said. 'We evolved; we reduced the costs; we listened to our customers. To me, that's called staying in touch.'

A tester with the Joint Interoperability Test Command was optimistic that DMS had jumped its earlier hurdles and is secure and efficient enough to handle DOD's daily volume of data messages.

But the command will not release its final test scores until the end of the month, the tester emphasized.

It's been a decade since the Pentagon began its development of DMS. The writer-to-reader system lets users send and receive messages from their desktop computers rather than from message centers.

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