DOD prepares for IPv6 funding battles

DOD prepares for IPv6 funding battles

The Defense Department faces some stiff challenges in meeting its goal of moving its Global Information Grid, which includes 40,000 DOD applications and tens of thousands of commercial applications, to IPv6 by 2008. But the biggest challenge could be getting the money to pay for it.

'Every year you have to fight for money,' said Charles Lynch, chief of the DOD IPv6 Transition Office. 'That is part of the responsibility of this office.'

Lynch, speaking Thursday at the U.S. IPv6 Summit in Reston, Va., said the funding process often is a zero-sum game. Money for migrating DOD to the next generation of Internet protocols come from other programs that will have to do without.

The mandate to move to the new protocols came in June 2003. The Transition Office was established in March of this year and received its first funding of about $2 million, in July. This money came from individual service budgets, and the office expects to add its eighth staff member next week, Lynch said. That staff is laying groundwork that will have to be completed by others.

'My office will not be responsible for migrating one single piece of equipment or one network,' Lynch said. That will be done by the individual services. Funding for that work will not be available before fiscal 2006.

Alex Lightman, chairman of the U.S. IPv6 Summit, estimated that the transition process will require about $20 million a year for four years.

Despite the short timeframe, DOD CIO Linton Wells II said the deadline is firm.

'2008 is like Y2K for us,' he said, referring to the department's rush in the late 1990s to get its IT systems ready for the year 2000 rollover.

But Lynch pointed out a critical difference. The year 2000 effort meant identifying those systems that were broken and fixing them. 'Today, everything is broken,' he said. 'Everything is running on version 4.'

Wells said the cost of the current military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan probably would not interfere with the transition funding.

'That is being covered with supplemental appropriations,' he said. 'As long as you continue to get supplemental funding for the immediate needs that should take care of it.'

He said a bigger threat is the rising cost of health care for DOD. That figure increased by $27 billion in the last year, an amount almost equal to the department's total $28 billion IT budget and far greater than spending for the Global Information Grid.

Lynch said the IPv6 transition is critical to the DOD's net-centric vision of 21st century warfare.

'We are at the hairy edge of collapse,' he said, and the Internet is at the limit of its current capacity.

But, 'the funding picture is always a question,' he said.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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