DOD brass: Coalitions need info sharing

HONOLULU — U.S. military forces need to develop a better way to share information about potential or current adversaries with allies and coalition partners, top Defense Department commanders said at an AFCEA International conference here last week.

This information sharing should include coalition partners' access to DOD's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET), a move resisted by members of the intelligence community, a commander said at the AFCEA Technet Asia-Pacific conference.

Vice Adm. Gary Roughead, deputy commander of Pacific Command, said sharing information with allies and coalition partners is vital to U.S. interests as the military fights an increasingly global war on terrorism.

Such information sharing runs counter to a long-standing U.S. policy to tightly compartmentalize and classify operational and intelligence data even with close allies such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Air Force Col. Greg Brundidge, director of communications and information at Pacific Air Force headquarters, summed up this conundrum as "the need to share vs. the need to know." But, he added that today, "the compelling operational requirement is the need to share, and we have to design systems that can do that."

Army Brig. Gen. Randy Strong, director of command, control, communications and computer systems at Pacific Command, said the way the U.S. shares information with allies requires the use of multiple networks, each operating in a separate classified domain and linked to separate computers. That is not efficient use of bandwidth or desktop space, he said.

Michael Maxwell, deputy director of Canadian Maritime Forces Pacific, said this approach has required installation of multiple computers onboard Canadian frigates operating with the U.S. Navy

in the Middle East. The computers that can share limited information with

U.S. forces are literally taped on top of computers hooked into Canadian military networks.

Brundidge said information sharing with allies and partners needs to be built into the Global Information Grid, not treated as an afterthought.

Army Col. Gil Griffin, commander of the Defense Information Systems Agency-Pacific, said that thanks to a joint Navy/ DISA program called Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS), information sharing with allies has improved during the program's more than two-year span.

Griffin said CENTRIXS has 20,000 users in 65 nations with access to a common e-mail system and the ability to browse Web sites with operational and tactical information.

Navy officials have installed CENTRIXS PCs on a wide range of ships, said Capt. Dean Kiyohara, director of command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) for the Pacific Fleet. Kiyohara added that the Navy's commitment to CENTRIXS includes installation of 10 to 30 PCs, which can access the system on command ships such as USS Blue Ridge and three workstations on smaller ships.

Col. Bill Febuary, C4I director of Marine Corps Forces Pacific, sees CENTRIXS as the network of choice for sharing information with coalition partners. But he said that if DOD officials are to meet President Bush's mandate to share information with partners, any such network must include SIPRNET access.

Strong challenged industry officials to develop a solution that meets the often-conflicting classification and sharing requirements, and indicated that he would entertain any fix, as long as it allowed an individual to work with multiple partners from just one desktop computer.

VOIP: Call waiting

HONOLULU — Voice over IP will become the way U.S. military officials handle phone calls sometime in the future, but not until the Defense Department can ensure redundancy and backup for such a system, according to DOD officials.

Army Brig. Gen. Randy Strong, director of command, control, communications and computer systems at U.S. Pacific Command, said military data networks would likely handle voice-over-IP calls. Those networks have outages, but they are backed up by circuit-switched voice networks.

Before DOD officials move the agency's voice traffic to voice over IP, Strong said they need to have assurances that the voice system will have the same kind of redundancy and backup that the data network has today, potentially through the use of an IP network dedicated to voice-over-IP traffic.

If the backup problem can be resolved, he said, voice over IP promises to reduce demand on DOD networks because it uses bandwidth much more efficiently than circuit-switched voice networks.

— Bob Brewin

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