DISA's Edmonds plans to step down

Air Force Lt. Gen. Al Edmonds director of the Defense Information Systems Agency last month announced plans to retire though he did not set a date.

Edmonds who became the second director of DISA on July 29 1994 said in an interview that he will leave the agency satisfied that he has met the major challenges he faced when he took command."I have met my part of the bargain...and put us on the path to the future " Edmonds said.

During Edmonds' tour DISA has managed to develop and/or field key joint command control and communications programs including the Global Command and Control System (GCCS) the Global Combat Support System (GCSS) and the Defense Message System (DMS). The agency also has managed to lay the groundwork for the Defense Information Systems Network (DISN) a global network to serve all the military services and Defense Department agencies Edmonds said he intends to stay on the job until the last DISN contract for transmission services is awarded in less than a month.

Norm Woods president of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association said Edmonds also deserves credit for developing streamlined contracting vehicles such as Defense Enterprise Integration Services. While GCCS was supervised directly by Rear Adm. John Gauss director of DISA's Joint Interoperability Engineering Organization Woods said "Edmonds deserves credit for having the insight to bring on Gauss."

While GCCS and DISN rank as true successes Edmonds said DMS designed to bring secure and advanced X.400 messaging technology to 2 million DOD users has proved to be more of a challenge particularly on the integration side. Observing that DMS integrator Lockheed Martin Corp. has 10 companies on its team Edmonds noted that "integration is harder with multiple companies.... It is very difficult to improve that process."

Edmonds said DISA held a meeting with Lockheed Martin and the DMS contractors last month to try to work through some of the problems many of which reside on the contractors' side. Edmonds wants any problems with fielding DMS fixed quickly because he believes it is essential that "we shut down Autodin [the current DOD-wide secure messaging system] before the Year 2000."

Edmonds added that he viewed his work at DISA as an extension of plans set in motion during his stint as director of command control and communications at the Joint Staff. He said the back-to-back DISA and Joint Staff assignments gave him a unique perspective on joint organizations.

Edmonds continued to back DISA's operation and control of the mainframe megacenters inherited from the services as well as Defense agencies.

Though various Pentagon studies as well as industry experts have suggested DOD could save money and operate more efficiently by contracting out megacenter operations Edmonds disagreed.

"There is not that much to be outsourced " he said. "We have reduced the number of personnel from 10 000 to 3 000 and [cut the budget] from $1.7 billion [annually] to $400 million."

Commenting on reports that DISA has emerged at the top of the "hit list" of agencies or programs to be cut through the ongoing Quadrennial Review process Edmonds said he was not surprised. He noted that agencies such as DISA do not have the purse-string power that resides in the military services which make them easier targets for cuts.

Edmonds said he does not have any specific plans for what he will do in retirement. "I will listen to anybody that has a good idea " he said. "I also know that you can be a patriot without having to wear a uniform." He said he plans to live in Maryland to be close to his children and grandchildren and would like a job "that does not require a commute.

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