DOD's GIG-BE readies for prime time

This week will be showtime for the Defense Department's multimillion-dollar initiative to outfit key military sites with what could be unlimited bandwidth.

The $800 million Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion (GIG-BE) is the cornerstone of DOD's transformational network-centric operations, which aim to give warfighters an edge by making data available on secure networks almost immediately. GIG-BE will link 92 sites worldwide so warfighters and analysts can quickly send intelligence and information.

Officials will launch the system at six military installations Sept. 30. Officials at the Defense Information Systems Agency, which is overseeing GIG-BE, will connect four more sites in November, and the remaining 82 will be connected by September 2005, said Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege, DISA's director, speaking last week at the Network Centric Operations symposium.

Raduege said GIG-BE will provide immediate benefits to troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan by rapidly transmitting bandwidth-consuming imagery from satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles.

"Because we are going to an initial operating capability at those six locations and building four additional sites by the middle of November, they will be able to carry real operational traffic," he said. "So we are building the network."

Military officials previously sent vital satellite and map imagery to troops in battle by flying it to a combat region and having it delivered by hand. GIG-BE gives U.S. and coalition forces a global backbone to transmit information rapidly, said Dan Goure, a vice president of the Lexington Institute, a think tank in Arlington, Va.

"This is enormously significant," Goure said. "It takes a key network-centric operations program from the viewgraph to the command center and world stage."

Just as important as better bandwidth and improved access, GIG-BE provides more resilience and physical diversity with two fiber-optic cable lines in and out of sites, said Loren Thompson, chief operating officer at the institute. "What's not to like about it?" he asked.

GIG-BE uses an OC-192 optical switching connection to move voice, video and data information on fiber inside a cable at 10 gigabits/sec or faster connections.

GIG-BE's two-year history

The Defense Department's Global Information Grid-Bandwidth Expansion (GIG-BE) has been in the works for more than two years. The concept — creating virtually unlimited bandwidth pipes for military facilities — was one of the projects promoted by John Stenbit, former DOD chief information officer.

Officials at the Defense Information Systems Agency started planning for the program in January 2003. They awarded the first contracts nine months later, and the system achieved an initial operational capability in 21 months, a rapid acquisition and implementation strategy when compared with most DOD programs.

"I'm very proud of this," said DISA Director Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege (right), lauding the work of procurement and operations officials at DISA.

During the past year, DISA awarded five contracts to fiber vendors. For security reasons, officials would not identify the companies that won the deals. Fiber firms have posted maps online showing where cable was laid during the telecommunications industry expansion of the 1990s. U.S. enemies or hackers could download the maps to find the fiber and tap into it.

In December, DISA officials awarded GIG-BE equipment contracts worth $336 million to Ciena Corp., Sprint, Juniper Networks Inc. and Qwest Communications International Inc.'s Government Services Division.

Officials at the Joint Interoperability Test Command conducted certification, interoperability and security testing of the hardware installed at the first six GIG-BE sites. DISA officials plan to buy the equipment in three installments following a buy-a-little, test-a-little acquisition strategy and buy the remaining hardware by the end of this year, said Anthony Montemarano, DISA's GIG-BE program director.

— Frank Tiboni

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