With DMS 3.0 tests complete, DISA aims for a June rollout

GCN Photo by Olivier Douliery

DMS 3.0 has plenty of new features and could be ready to implement by June, DISA's Jerry Bennis says.

The latest version of the Defense Message System, which features a compartmentalized system to send classified data to specific users, has completed final Defense testing, and officials are waiting to hear if it passed and will be qualified for worldwide deployment this summer.

In addition to the Special Category and Special Handling messaging security features on DMS Version 3.0, the Defense Information Systems Agency has set a standard for how military employees are listed in the directory information tree.

The tree lets a user find the DMS address of any user in the system. Various Defense agencies now have their own systems for listing employees, which aren't always compatible with other systems.

'The biggest issue with DMS was the ease of use,' said Diann L. McCoy, principal director of DISA's applications engineering directorate. McCoy said the standardized directory would make it more user-friendly.

That comfort level could take time. DMS, an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract with a $1.6 billion purchase ceiling, 'needs that normal maturation time for users to be comfortable,' said Jerry Bennis, program manager of DMS. DISA estimates that it will spend one-third of the purchase-ceiling amount on the program.

DMS is a managed message system that includes digital signatures. The system creates a record of a message's starting, transfer and delivery points.

The latest version can prevent a user from sending a highly sensitive message to an unauthorized user. It also will stop an unauthorized user from opening a sensitive message.

The new features were designed for the intelligence community, but Bennis said other Defense users have welcomed them.

Prime contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. delivered a pilot version of DMS 3.0 last summer that passed agency and contractor testing. Final government operational testing began in April and was expected to wrap up this month.

Bennis said DMS 3.0 would likely be fielded in late June.

Emphasis on security

DISA has also upgraded some of the commercial software the system uses. DMS 3.0 will run on Microsoft Windows XP in addition to Win 2000 and Win 98, and it will move to Outlook XP from Outlook 2000.

Government testers slammed earlier versions of DMS for security breaches. But DMS officials say they are confident that Version 3.0 will pass the test because of the emphasis they put on security.

Plus, DMS officials point to the high test marks DMS 2.2, which has been implemented on 250 bases, has received. DMS scored high for speed, tracing capabilities, use of address lists and the message exchange between security domains and bulk message deliveries.

Still, DMS has not cleared all of the hurdles that have plagued the system.

One nagging problem is difficulty with the current version's use of public-key infrastructure. The public keys are stored in certificates within the DMS directory. The private keys are stored on Fortezza cards, which users access via a PIN to sign and encrypt messages before sending them.

Access problems

Defense employees have reported using faulty cards that deny them access to the system. McCoy said in some cases, information on an employee's classification or work clearance has been left off the cards, which prevents access.

As a result, the system has not been well-received by users, DISA officials said.

But McCoy said such problems are expected.

'These are cultural problems. This is business process re-engineering,' McCoy said. 'It takes time to manage a new process. That's why we have this transition period.'

DMS will eventually replace AUTODIN, the 50-year-old bulk messaging system through which users ship electronic memos via hundreds of military message centers. AUTODIN operates at slower speeds than DMS and cannot handle as much data, Bennis said. And AUTODIN is more expensive to operate because it requires Defense employees known as specialized communicators to record, copy and, in some cases, distribute electronic messages, Bennis said.

DMS will eliminate the need for this class of employees and the communications centers they work in, he said. It can also handle graphics and attachments.

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

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