DISA will be own integrator on GIG-BE project

GIG-BE's scalable infrastructure will help DISA manage the evolution of the DOD-wide network, program director Tony Montemarano says.

Olivier Douliery

The Defense Information Systems Agency is bucking a trend toward outsourcing on its Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion project.

The agency will serve as its own systems integrator in overseeing work under new hardware and software contracts to build a communications infrastructure to serve users throughout the Defense Department.

DISA awarded four indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts under the Defense Information System Network Global Solutions contract:
  • Ciena Corp. of Linthicum, Md., for optical transport systems equipment

  • Sprint Communications Co. and Sycamore Networks Inc. of Chelmsford, Mass., for optical digital cross-connect equipment

  • Juniper Networks Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., for IP router equipment

  • Qwest Government Services of Arlington, Va., and Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., for multiservice provisioning equipment.

At least one industry observer questioned whether DISA's decision to buy fiber-optic cabling and hardware directly from vendors while serving as its own integrator is a smart move.

'It's a very radical step they're taking,' said Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting Inc. of Jenkintown, Pa. 'It's really counter to a long-term trend [of outsourcing] in the government. Whether this is the correct strategy remains to be seen.' Suss said DISA chose this route because GIG-BE has greater security challenges than other government networks, as well as extraordinary bandwidth demands.

But program director Tony Montemarano said DISA has provided services for years under the acquisition strategy it is using for GIG-BE. The agency is working with GIG prime contractor Science Applications International Corp. to manage the project.

'We have found great flexibility in outsourcing the components rather than the system as a whole,' Montemarano said. 'By acting as the integrator, with the help of various industry expertise as necessary, DISA has been able to exploit the talents and resources of industry while simultaneously retaining control and maintaining security within the government.'

GIG-BE will be a worldwide, ground-based switched optical network with 10-Gbps or faster connections. It will serve Defense users at roughly 100 sites around the globe.

By September, Montemarano said, GIG-BE will be operational at 10 sites. The program will add 10 more sites by next December and finish global deployment by September 2005.

The two components of GIG-BE'fiber-optic services, and hardware and software'are expected to cost about $900 million.

SAIC in 2001 won the umbrella Defense Information System Network Global Solutions contract to create GIG-BE.

Technical future

Suss said the success of the program will be determined by how well DISA operates the network, maintains it, upgrades it and manages it. He questioned whether DISA has thought out technology upgrades.

'Technology is changing rapidly. There's an 18-month cycle in terms of obsolescence. They may be buying and building a network that looks great today, but that may start looking old before too long,' Suss said.

But Montemarano downplayed such concerns. 'Embracing IP over an optically switched synchronous optical network, we feel, positions us for the foreseeable future,' he said.

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