Bosnia support nets to get upgrade

The Defense Information Systems Agency plans to upgrade by spring the communications networks that now support U.S. and multinational forces of Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia with advanced bandwidth on demand and Global Broadcast Services.

According to DISA director Lt. Gen. Al Edmonds, in the two months since U.S. troops first deployed to Bosnia, DISA has managed to extend the full functions and seamless interoperability of the Defense Information System Network (DISN) to locations such as Tuzla, Bosnia, and logistics bases in nearby Hungary.

Portions of DISN have also been extended to the naval forces supporting the operation, according to Cmdr. Christopher Perry, assistant chief of staff for communications and information systems for the U.S. Sixth Fleet. Perry said staff members aboard the Sixth Fleet command ship, the USS LaSalle—currently under way in the Adriatic Sea—use the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET), which runs on the DISN backbone, to tap secret databases maintained by commands ashore.

DISA will upgrade the European backbone networks supporting Operation Joint Endeavor because the military has become "a lot smarter [since Operation Desert Storm], and as we become smarter we become more information-dependent," said Air Force Brig. Gen. James Beale, DISA's director of operations.

Beale said DISA will tap existing programs to handle the bulk of the Joint Endeavor communications upgrades. The DISN E-1 (2.04 megabit/sec) network already linking Germany with the forward-deployed troops in Bosnia and Hungary will be augmented by a commercial satellite network, using a transponder on the Intelsat satellite obtained through the Commercial Satellite Communications Initiative (CSCI) contract held by Comsat RSI.

Beale said DISA plans to use another CSCI transponder, this one on the private Orion satellite system, to provide Global Broadcast Service (GBS) to the theater. This transponder will give Joint Endeavor commanders the ability "to broadcast wideband data to a broad array of users. There's a lot of technology that we want to make available."

Beale said this operational use of GBS follows closely the lessons learned during last fall's Joint Warfare Interoperabilty Demonstration. "This builds on the JWID GBS," Beale said. One potential use of GBS in Operation Joint Endeavor will be to allow users to tap into secret databases running on World Wide Web software through a low-speed circuit, with the requested data zapped down the GBS wideband pipe—a concept successfully demonstrated during JWID, he said.

Edmonds said GBS should not be viewed as some exotic, stand-alone stovepipe system but rather part of an integrated whole. "Everyone has accepted that GBS is part of DISN," he said.

In yet another application of advanced commercial communications technology to Joint Endeavor, Beale said that by the spring DISA expects to be delivering bandwidth-on-demand to Bosnia, using the Asynchronous Transfer Mode protocol as part of the joint DISA/ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) Leading-Edge Services program. The ATM circuits, Beale said, will allow top commanders "to do operational planning [and] exchange high-bandwidth data and imagery, such as plans, maps, charts and such." DISA has already started putting the pipes into Europe to support the Joint Endeavor ATM service. Late last month DISA awarded a contract to MCI for a DS-3, trans-Atlantic fiber-optic circuit running from Fort Belvoir, Va., to Molsworth Air Force Base, England. Industry and military sources expect this circuit to be extended to the Joint Endeavor force.

`Very Good News'

Diana Gowen, director of DOD sales and marketing at MCI Government Markets, said the DS-3 award "was the first time DISA has required this kind of capacity into an overseas theater. They have finally reached the stage where they need this kind of capacity...and if they are successful in doing ATM over there, it will be very good news for those of us in the communications industry."

Naval forces supporting Joint Endeavor have also translated last summer's JWID experiments into practice, according to the Sixth Fleet's Perry. Perry was interviewed on the LaSalle in the Adriatic via a military phone circuit that has an "804" area code, one of 10 LaSalle phone lines using the Navy satellite system that terminate in a Norfolk, Va., telephone exchange.

Plain-old telephone service via Navy satellites is just one small example of the connectivity the LaSalle has while under way, according to Perry, who said the ship has a total communications capacity of 768 kilobit/sec, or about half a T-1 circuit. Secret data traffic is handled through local-area networks hosted by two servers running Unix, two running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT and one running Novell Inc.'s NetWare. Some 200 PCs on-board ship are connected to these LANs.

Because the multinational force includes forces from three nations—the United States, Great Britain and France—the ability to handle classified data with allies is another key factor of the operation. This is done through two distinct networks: the Link Operations Intelligence Center-Europe (LOICE) and the Allied Command and Control Information System. The LaSalle uses satellite circuits to exchange LOICE data, including imagery transfer and secure telephone capabilities, with multinational command headquarters in Zagreb as well as the U.S., British and French ground forces, Perry said.

The U.S. battlegroup also has its own afloat cellular telephone system, Perry said, with master cell sites located on the USS Wasp and the USS America, with calls relayed from these master cells directly into the switchboards of other ships in the battlegroup if they are within line of sight.

Looking at the vast array of communications resources committed to the support of Joint Endeavor, DISA's Beale said, "This is more complex than Operation Desert Storm. We are learning lessons from the past."

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