Leadership vacuum hinders transition to IPv6

RESTON, Va.'The government is setting itself up for failure by mandating a transition to the next version of Internet Protocols without budgeting for the process, according to the president of the U.S. IPv6 Summit.

'This has been tried and failed twice in the U.S.,' according to Alex Lightman, citing the Defense Department, which he said has not made material progress in its move to IPv6, and now with the Office of Management and Budget, which has ordered agencies to move backbones to the new protocols by 2008 using existing budgets. 'I think it's a formula for failure.'

There is no more vocal supporter of the move to IPv6 than Lightman, whose organization is hosting an IPv6 conference in Reston, Va., this week. He has called for years for the government to spearhead the use of the new protocols, which offer technical and functional advances over the current version 4.

But Lightman said there is a lack of leadership in the process, evidenced by a lack of funding for the project.

OMB said the process can be accomplished with existing IT budgets by acquiring only IPv6 capable products in the normal tech refresh cycle. But experts agree that the major cost in the transition will be training and manpower required to run the newly enabled backbones, which will cost billions of dollars that have not been budgeted.

Japan, Korea, China and the European Community have made adoption of the new protocols a national priority and have budgeted hundreds of billions of dollars for the move.

'The only country speeding up in this area without a considerable budget for it is the U.S.,' Lightman said.

Lightman also said the country is lagging in acquiring IPv6 addresses. Because the new protocols use a 128-bit address, new addresses must be acquired to use the protocols. So far, only the Defense, Transportation and Interior departments and the Social Security Administration have secured IPv6 addresses.

'If you don't have addresses, you haven't even started,' Lightman said. 'That is the IQ test of countries.'

According to Lightman, there needs to be a central IPv6 transition office for civilian agencies that is independent of OMB, which he said has neither the expertise nor the resources to manage the job.

Lightman blamed turf wars and a reluctance to cede power for the refusal to establish a transition office and fund the process.

'People in government need to realize that some people are for this and some are against it, and they need to fight like wildcats for the money and not take no for an answer,' he said. 'There are all sorts of voices in government, and the ones who are talking about unfunded mandates need to be shouted down.'

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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