The Core at the core of DATS
Arrowhead Global Solutions won two big pieces of the Defense Information Systems Agency’s recently awarded $3 billion Defense Information Systems Network Access Transport Services (DATS) contract with an innovative bid that stitches together circuits from a wide range of sources. With resources that included local Baby Bells, cable companies, private networks and its own network, it beat traditional network carriers such as Verizon.

When Arrowhead won the DATS deal, executives of traditional carriers carped to the Interceptor that assembling a mess of circuits is one thing, but managing them is another. They wondered how Arrowhead could do it.

I’ve learned that Arrowhead plans to tap a New York outfit called Core180 to be its bandwidth manager subcontractor and ensure that all the DATS data goes in the right direction. I’ve also heard that Mark Ritter, the Arrowhead vice president who spearheaded the company’s DATS bid, will join Core180 to manage the DATS work.

Core180 looks interesting. It operates carrier hotels, or neutral facilities that meld bandwidth from different sources at the best possible rate.

To use an archery analogy, Core180 could be the guiding vane that shoots an arrowhead into the heart of traditional carriers and their federal business.

DISA is not a four-letter word
A few years ago, you could easily elicit a heated response from many Navy command, control, communications and computers folks by just saying the word DISA. That’s not true anymore. The Navy has fully embraced DISA’s collaborative toolset, according to a Navy message on C4 priorities for 2007 that recently found its way to my e-mail inbox.

That message said the service “must adopt and transition to the joint collaborative tools” developed by DISA because “this will help ensure that the Navy remains a viable contributor to the joint fight.”

But DISA has done more than develop the right tools to win over Navy users, said retired Vice Adm. Herb Browne, AFCEA International’s president and chief executive officer. He credits DISA’s director, Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles Croom with bridging the DISA-Navy gap.

Browne said the relationship between Croom and Vice Adm. Mark Edwards, deputy chief of Naval operations for communications networks, is the best he has seen in years between the two positions.

People and personalities make a difference, Browne said. I agree. I’m cranky and often a pest — an acceptable four-letter word for reporter in a family computer magazine — and I have a better relationship with Croom than any DISA director in years.

Am I doing something wrong that I have not alienated yet another DISA director?

HF radio gets legs!
In November, I reported on a successful Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (Spawar) test using high-frequency (HF) radio to transmit IP traffic, and I added that this might lead to a revival of a technology that I used as a young Marine Corps 2531 radio operator.

Well, I may see that revival in my lifetime if the Navy follows guidance in a top 10 C4 priorities message. That message states that many navies worldwide can’t afford satellite systems, creating a requirement for low-cost radio systems to support communications among the U.S Navy and its allies.

The Navy might want to check out the HF e-mail system used by the United Nation’s World Food Programme since at least the late 1990s.

Low budgets force creativity, and the United Nations has developed an HF e-mail system that provides a data rate of 19.2 kilobits/sec, which matches the rate that Spawar achieved in its HF IP test. Codan, an Australian company, supplies the food program and other nongovernmental organizations with HF single-side band radios and modems in a package that costs about $10,000 — a sum so low that it might embarrass a Spawar contracting officer. It is definitely worth a look.

Build a better antenna and the Navy will be at your door
The Navy C4 priorities message also focused on a bunch of problems in fleet communications, including impairment of satellite communications caused by poor antenna reliability.

That illustrates that many of the C4 problems facing the Navy are not high tech at all. Guglielmo Marconi set up his first antenna on the Isle of Wight in 1897 and the first ship-to-shore broadcast occurred in 1901. You would think the Navy would have learned something about antennas in the past 105 years.

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