Defense releases DMS 3.0 for testing

Defense releases DMS 3.0 for testing

Latest version has Win 2000 and directory upgrades, Lotus Notes R5 and automatic access controls

BY DAWN S. ONLEY | GCN STAFF

The latest version of the Defense Message System prevents a user from sending a highly sensitive message to an unauthorized user and, if that fails, it stops an unauthorized user from opening the message.

This two-fold security feature in DMS Version 3.0, known as Special Category and Special Handling messaging, is a key capability for all Defense Department agencies, especially the intelligence community, said Jerry Bennis, DMS program manager for the Defense Information Systems Agency. It also represents the most sophisticated enhancement to date of DMS as it moves one step closer to replacing DOD's aging AUTODIN messaging system, Bennis said.

Server upgrades

The system is being developed through an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with a $1.6 billion purchase ceiling, although the department estimates that it will spend roughly one-third of that amount.

Other enhancements in the latest version include a server upgrade to Microsoft Windows 2000 from NT 4.0, adoption of Lotus Notes R5, a switch to Service Pack 4 for Exchange Server 5.5 and commercial upgrades to the directory.

Prime contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. last month delivered the operational test version of DMS 3.0 to DISA. The agency is testing the system at the Joint Interoperability Test Command at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. In the fall, the Defense Department's Office of Operational Test and Evaluation will test it.

OT&E reviewers criticized many of the early versions, noting significant security breaches. If testers give this version the green light, DISA will roll it out worldwide in December and January.

'The door is now opening for DMS-based interoperability with NATO communication standards,' said Lt. Pauline Storum, a Navy spokeswoman.

The system's early problems have made some service members, including senior commanders, hesitant about using DMS. Some DOD officials have openly criticized the department's replacement of AUTODIN, the 40-year-old bulk messaging system through which users ship memos via hundreds of military message centers.

But that's yesterday's news, said Navy Rear Adm. Robert Nutwell, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and space. He pointed to testing of the last version of DMS, Version 2.2, which received high marks.

Robert Nutwell
'I think we're over the hump, and people are beginning to see that DMS is the wave of the future.'
'REAR ADM. ROBERT NUTWELL
DOD brass signed off on Version 2.2 for worldwide deployment. And if 3.0 'delivers as advertised,' it will let DOD shut down AUTODIN, which Defense officials expect will reduce costs while providing better service, Nutwell said.

Although DMS 3.0 is 'not as user-friendly a product as we would like,' it shows major improvements over previous versions, he said. It includes automatic access controls that let users send messages with caveats, coding and special handling instructions, Nutwell said.

The admiral said 80 percent of the department is using DMS for general messaging, up greatly from a few months ago. DMS includes digital signatures, plus audit and trace capability for message accountability.

Industrial relic

'I think we're over the hump, and people are beginning to see that DMS is the wave of the future,' Nutwell said. 'AUTODIN is a relic of the industrial age. It doesn't give you what you need in the information age.'

Bennis agreed. 'The product is mature and can do the job, and as the people use the system and get more experience with it, it will just come naturally,' he said.

With any new system, there is a maturation process that takes time for users to become familiar with the technology, Bennis said.

With the rollout of Version 3.0, DISA is on schedule to phase out AUTODIN by Sept. 30, 2003.

The message system provides a directory information tree that lets any user find the DMS address of any other user in the system.

Costly operation

DISA began studying a cost-effective replacement for AUTODIN about 12 years ago, after discovering that the system cost more than $700 million each year to operate. In 1995, DISA awarded Lockheed Martin the contract to provide DMS products and services, and a few years later, each military branch began working to integrate DMS.

In DMS' public-key infrastructure, the public key is stored in certificates within the DMS directory, and the private key is stored on a Fortezza encryption card. The user accesses the card via a personal identification number to sign and encrypt a message before sending it.

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