DOD IPv6 transition deadline not written in stone, CIO says

RESTON, Va.'The Defense Department has committed itself to move its networks to Version 6 of the Internet Protocols by 2008, but CIO Linton Wells said Tuesday that ongoing combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan could slow that transition.

"DOD is fully committed to moving to IPv6 as soon as we can," Wells said at the Coalition Summit for IPv6. But, "we will not impair our operational capability during the transition."

DOD is the first department to mandate the switch to the new generation of Internet Protocols, which define how computers communicate with each other. The rest of the government is watching the DOD experience before committing itself to adopting IPv6.

The transition was mandated in 2003 to help enable the department's goal of network-centric warfare. This requires more data sharing for situational awareness in the field. This, in turn, requires intelligent pulling of data rather than centralized pushing.

"The mantra for this is power to the edge," Linton said. "IPv6 is a critical enabler of what we're trying to do. The goal is to move everything over IP."

The 2008 deadline was set in 2003, based on a four- or five-year acquisition process and the expected evolution of standards for the new protocols. The department began buying IPv6 capable equipment in October 2003 to avoid large transition costs. But the equipment is running only in IPv4 mode now, with Version 6 functionality used only in pilot programs.

The department plans to slowly phase in Version 6 in a controlled process.

"Completion of the transition will be event-driven," Linton said. It will depend on the deployment of equipment, operational security and lessons learned in pilot programs. Some equipment, such as firewalls and intrusion prevention systems, either is unavailable or not fully developed for IPv6.

"I would expect the transition to start at the core and move to the edge," Linton said.

Momentum is building for the transition to IPv6. House Government Reform Committee chairman Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) today announced an initiative to push civilian agencies toward adoption of the next generation of Internet Protocols by 2008 [see GCN story]. In addition, a report by the Government Accountability Office released today also urges the government to begin planning for a transition to the new protocols.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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