GCCS, Internet top issues at IT conference

MONTGOMERY Ala. - The Air Force Standard Systems Group (SSG) headquartered here widened the focus of its long-running Small Computer Conference renaming it the Air Force Information Technology Conference and or-ganizing it around the theme of "Linking Today's Warfighter to Tomorrow " which top Pentagon leaders embraced in their keynote speeches.

Lt. Gen. Al Edmonds director of the Defense Information Systems Agency used his keynote speech as a bully pulpit to ask the more than 3 400 uniformed and civilian IT Air Force professionals at the conference for their help to integrate Air Force information with the Global Command and Control System. "I need help...in getting the Air Force picture into GCCS. Right now we're getting the air picture from the Navy."

GCCS provides commanders with a "real-time" picture of battlespace by integrating track and sensor data from platforms such as Navy E-2 surveillance aircraft and spy satellites. But Edmonds said he needs data from "multiple sources " such as Air Force Airborne Warning and Control System E-3 aircraft to flesh out the GCCS picture.

DISA shut down the World Wide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS) with more than 500 GCCS terminals replacing it at joint commands worldwide as well as the National Military Command Center.Despite the success of GCCS Edmonds said that "many people in the services don't know about GCCS...and they don't know it's much more than a WWMCCS replacement."

The services lag far behind the joint commands in their embrace of GCCS Edmonds said. "They have not put sites in.... [The ones they have installed] are [primarily] by dial-up modem." This deprives the services of full GCCS functionality Edmonds said which will continue to improve.

Within 30 days he added GCCS will feature live track data from the Enhanced Position Location and Reporting System used by Marine and Army ground units as well as real-time weather information.While many DOD organizations lag behind in electronic commerce/electronic data interchange systems Edmonds said troops in Bosnia routinely tap into an EC/EDI server in-theater that allows them to perform "transactions with our megacenter in Columbus Ohio."

Edmonds used the forum here to all but kill off the long-running and unsuccessful DOD-wide Multi-Level Security (MLS) program. Describing MLS as a "1980s search for a perfect solution...and we still don't have it " Edmonds instead called for a "95 percent solution" built around the Fortezza card which provides different levels of security on the same platform depending on the classification of the card issued to a user.

The "95 percent solution" makes more sense than MLS because only a "small community" uses trusted security data which amounts to about 3 percent of all information in DOD. This consists primarily of war plans which "are left in the safe" when a real-world operation arises Edmonds said.

Pressed in the question period about DISA's ability to provide wider bandwidth for access to the Internet including World Wide Web sites not on the Defense Information Systems Network (DISN) Edmonds said "No one had ever validated any requirements for Internet access.... It just grew and we all got hooked on it." As far as bigger pipes Edmonds said "No one will give me money for it."

Edmonds said that through the new DISN DISA will be able to provide "as much bandwidth as you want" to users wanting to access the Web but he cautioned users need to provide the funding.

Using the Internet and the Web was a key themes of this year's refocused Air Force IT Conference according to 2nd Lt. Chad Lynch chairman of the conference. "We had a mini-conference on the Web within the main conference " Lynch said "because there's so much interest in it."

SSG decided to expand the theme of the conference to reflect the wide range of programs and projects managed by the center Lynch added. "SSG is about more than just small computers " he said.

Attendance at this kick-off Air Force IT Conference is ahead of previous small- computer-only conferences Lynch said with the previous attendance record of 2 900 set last year. The broadened focus "has increased attendance from Air Force units worldwide " Lynch said while slimming down attendance by users from the other services "who came primarily for the small computers."

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