Intranet surfers nab intell for U.S. forces in Bosnia

Commanders in Bosnia now surf a secure intranet to gather real-time intelligence data, following a Defense Department decision to use Netscape Communications Corp.'s World Wide Web software as the key information management tool for its $88 million Bosnian C2 Augmentation (BC2 system.)

Col. Don Ottinger, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency-managed Joint Staff Support Center in the Pentagon, said the Joint Information Management Center (JIMC), set up by DISA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for BC2A, uses Netscape to help locate, manage and dispatch information from stateside intelligence providers to U.S. forces deployed in Bosnia.

Ottinger described the JIMC operators in the Pentagon as "Web surfers.... They receive an information request and then surf out to get it" from the sophisticated high-speed intranet connecting Washington-based agencies to JIMC.

Catching the Wave in Bosnia

The Web surfing begins in Bosnia, where troops pop up preloaded menus on their browsers to request products such as maps, weather, imagery or logistics data, Ottinger said. They then send the request back to JIMC via a high-speed satellite/underseas fiber-optic communications network, which serves as the BC 2A backbone.

DARPA/DISA have installed a powerful Sun Microsystems Inc. 2000A server with a terabyte of capacity in JIMC.

The National Security Agency, the Joint Analysis Center in Molesworth, England, the National Photographic Interpretation Center, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA and the Defense Mapping Agency have also set up powerful servers to provide information for BC2A, Ottinger said.

Once JIMC receives a request for information, Ottinger said a quick search reveals whether requested information is available locally. If it is not, the operators surf further afield until they find it. They then "package" it for transmission back to the requesting site at either European Command rear headquarters in Germany or Italy, or sites in Bosnia.

Air Force Brig. Gen. James Beale, DISA's deputy director for operations, said JIMC acts as "a combination librarian and Federal Express.... We find the information and then we send it." Once the information is located, JIMC zaps it over the theaterwide Joint Broadcast System (JBS) using a 24 megabit/sec transponder on an International Tele-communications Organization satellite.

BC2A currently provides two-way traffic between the continental U.S. (CONUS) agencies and Bosnian and European commanders over the JBS and its companion secure intranet. Overseas sites are located in Vicenza, Italy; Heidelberg, Ramstein and Stuttgart, Germany; Tuzla and Sarajevo, Bosnia; Tazar, Hungary; and Molesworth.

At Molesworth, BC2A traffic is sent to CONUS via a DS-3 trans-Atlantic circuit furnished by MCI.

Eventually, DISA/DARPA plan to field JBS receive-only terminals to anywhere from 22 to 31 locations in Bosnia. In addition, three Navy ships on patrol in the Adriatic Sea—the LaSalle, the Guam and the George Washington—are hooked into the BC2A network.

Besides carrying data "pulled" from stateside providers, JBS provides a live, real-time video feed from Predators—unmanned aerial vehicles that patrol the skies over Bosnia on a daily basis. BC2A also carries a feed for the NATO commanders and forces in Bosnia in a compartmented data stream.

At a peak, all this data, as well as the Predator video feed, could overwhelm even a 24 megabit/sec channel, so DISA/DARPA compress the data using MPEG2 compression.

DISA/DARPA selected yet another piece of commercial gear to unscramble the BC2A signals: an off-the-shelf Hughes Digital Satellite System receiver, packed with a TV and VCR in a rugged transit case, according to Col. Ken Richart, program manager for DISA's Special Projects Division.

The Air Force Command, Control, Communications and Computer Agency (AFC4A), Scott Air Force Base, Ill., was tasked to integrate the commercial electronics equipment into rugged transit cases. AFC4A also packaged cryptography gear into another transit case, Ottinger said.

Air Force Col. Ed Mahen, the DARPA manager of BC2A, said commercialization of the network extends to the computer equipment: off-the-shelf Sun workstations. These are being deployed to Bosnia as terminals for the Global Command and Control System.

The 22 receive-only JBS sites will be equipped with Sun workstations sporting 42G of hard disk storage capacity, while the seven two-way sites will receive Sun systems that feature 100G of storage.

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