DOD seeks net-centricity help

Wanted: Capabilities brokers

The Defense Information Systems Agency said it needs industry help in finding and delivering capabilities to meet new Defense Department requirements. DISA officials are considering seeking a capabilities broker, whose function would be to help DOD:

  • Quickly identify technologies used by civilian organizations that could be adapted for military use.

  • Learn about new technologies from the broker without raising conflict-of-interest issues.

  • Add those new capabilities to its Net-Enabled Command Capability program.


  • — Florence Olsen

    Defense Department officials say their message to industry about network-centricity is not getting through, or maybe they have not articulated the message with sufficient clarity. But either way, DOD officials say they are frustrated.


    Tony Montemarano, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Information Assurance/Network Operations Program Executive Office, said vendors continue to offer DISA traditional solutions, despite the agency’s efforts to explain its net-centric requirements.


    “Net-centricity is coming to the NetOps community, but NetOps vendors aren’t getting the message,” Montemarano said at recent DISA Forecast to Industry presentation in Washington. “We need those of you who have those tools to have that in mind when you come forward.”


    Vendors continue to offer DISA traditional point-to-point solutions or ones in which they put software agents on another company’s device. “That’s not where we are going,” Montemarano said in an interview.


    He speculated that industry may need more education on net-centricity before it commits to the program. “Industry needs to accept the fact that DOD is serious about this,” he said. “We will be moving to net-centricity, and we will not be cobbling it together ourselves. If they get on the bandwagon, industry can help DOD. There is a niche here to be satisfied. As net-centricity develops momentum, there will be a lot more opportunities for industry.”


    DISA is looking beyond solutions that provide improved views of the network, Montemarano said. “At a simple level, we are talking about publishing information on the network and having users subscribe to those information services. The vendors I talk to are not using that kind of language. We want to work with industry to publish data. We want industry to come in and say, ‘We are ready to do this whenever you are.’”


    DISA also wants industry to help it identify net-centric capabilities beyond those it knows. DISA needs industry to play the role of capability broker, Montemarano said. “The idea behind capabilities brokers is to serve as DISA’s independent eyes, ears and arms to look for capabilities,” said Dave Bennett, the agency’s deputy director for command-and-control systems.


    The agency is looking for specific solutions for its Net-Enabled Command Capability program, which would provide commanders with data and information needed to make timely, effective, and informed decisions. “We will be looking for one large entity that will operate with no strings attached and no conflicts of interest with respect to proprietary solutions or products,” Bennett said.


    The agency plans to issue a solicitation for a capabilities broker in the first quarter of fiscal 2008 to learn to what extent it can rely on industry to help it identify and acquire new technologies. The quest is based on the presumption that industry has solutions or is at least working on them, Montemarano said.


    “We in the department have been articulating our network-centric strategy for multiple years,” Montemarano said. “It seems to me industry would want to embrace it. If we haven’t been clear enough, if we haven’t given them enough information, or if we haven’t issued sufficient standards, then they should hold us accountable for that.”


    Buxbaum is a freelance writer in Bethesda, Md.

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