DOD, GSA unveil dueling nets

The Defense Department and the General Services Administration unveiled plans last week to build state-of-the-art telecommunications networks to serve the vast pool of more than 300,000 DOD and civilian employees in the Washington, D.C., area.

GSA made it clear that it intends to develop a Washington-area network to provide a wide range of voice, video and data services to both civilian and Defense users. But DOD officials said they need their own network to ensure security as well as military-unique requirements such as precedence, which prioritizes calls, and pre-emption.

Both networks are designed to replace existing contracts held by Bell Atlantic, including the Washington Interagency Telecommunications System (WITS), managed by GSA, and DOD's Telecommunications Modernization Project (Tempo), managed by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

Industry sources estimated the value of each contract at $400 million to $500 million over 10 years, and the contracts are likely to spark fierce competition between Bell Atlantic and new, alternative local providers. Diana Gowen, director of Defense and National Information Infrastructure for MCI Government Markets, said her company "absolutely'' plans to pursue the DOD system, the National Capital Region Metropolitan-Area Network Defense Information Systems Network (NCR MAN DISN) contract, managed by DISA.

Tom Early, program manager for Lucent Technology Inc.'s Navy Voice, Video and Data (Vivid) contract, said he believes Lucent could provide DISA with the NCR MAN DISN through Vivid, adding that such a move would save the agency the high costs of running its own procurement.

Whoever wins the NCR MAN DISN procurement, DISA officials said last week that they intend to go it alone for the most part. Peter Paulson, DISA's chief of network operations, said DOD "can't use GSA for MANs or [wide-area networks]'' because of requirements such as pre-emption, survivability, alternate routing, dual homing and the need for built-in 'surge' capacity.''

Paulson said he expects the NCR MAN DISN to provide service to roughly 165,000 users and to complement the global DISN by providing "[Asynchronous Transfer Mode] to the desktop.'' He added that DISA expects to release a request for information to industry by next week.

GSA expects to serve 167,000 users with its high-speed WITS 2001 network, with many users coming from DOD. Wayne Brady, WITS 2001 program manager, said at a federal telecommunications conference last week that he expects nonsecure DOD traffic to constitute much of what will travel across GSA's forthcoming network. He noted that GSA's request for agencies to identify potential WITS 2001 sites revealed more than 900 locations that may use the network, more than 500 of which are DOD sites.

"DOD is trying to determine how much of its traffic will move to the secure side and how much will go to WITS 2001," Brady said.

Trisha Sitnick, deputy director of the current WITS program, said last week that DOD will not play a role in the WITS 2001 acquisition. "To allow DOD to influence this procurement will delay the process," she said.

GSA will issue a draft solicitation for WITS 2001 by the end of the month and will award a contract by the end of this year.

GSA appears to be taking its cues from the Washington-Area Service Provider Working Group of the Interagency Management Council, a group of federal telecom executives who developed a strategy outlining opportunities for interagency collaboration on local telecommunications in the Washington, D.C., area.

Group member Kevin Meyers, a senior staff assistant at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said the group recommended that agencies "do as much as possible to consolidate requirements" and that the traffic in the region run on one of two networks, depending on the level of security that is needed.

Meyers said users involved in national security or law enforcement are likely candidates to use the secure network, while most other users— even those within DOD— would not need such a high level of protection.

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