DISA unveils new plans for DMS

The Defense Information Systems Agency last week confirmed two changes to the Defense Message System that respond to concerns voiced by the nuclear community and to directions from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to insert commercial products.

DISA will operate three Defense Message Transition Centers to provide capabilities for nuclear command and control systems now provided by the aging but highly secure and reliable Automated Digital Network (Autodin) message system. In addition, the flexible architecture of DMS will now include a medium-assurance security capability to provide lower-cost service to users who do not require the top-of-the-line security.

Navy Capt. Jim Day, DISA's DMS program director, said the three DMS transition centers— one located in the continental United States, one in Germany and a third in Hawaii— will provide "ruthless pre-emption" capabilities to ensure that nuclear Emergency Action Messages (EAMs) always "go to the top of the queue." Some of that capability is not available in Internet Protocol networks, he said.

Although DMS has demonstrated "speed-of-service requirements" to ensure that EAMs pass quickly through the system, Day said that is not sufficient for the nuclear command and control community, so the DMS transition centers will operate until the 2003-2005 time frame. By that time Day said he expects industry to have developed IP-based products that can provide the nuclear C2 community with the same kind of preemption it has in Autodin.

Day and Dian McCoy, DISA's director of command, control, communications, computers and intelligence program integration, said the DMS transition centers also will support non-Defense Department Autodin users such as the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the American Red Cross and allied nations until they make a transition to DMS. The transition centers will allow the agency to send and receive messages using different Autodin and DMS protocols.

At the time of the Autodin shutdown at the turn of the century, DMS will be supporting roughly 400,000 "organ-izational" users with highly secure messaging and Fortezza cards, Day said, not the original 2 million-user target.

Many of the other DOD users will use what the agency calls "medium-grade messaging." The agency expects to incorporate this capability, which is based on Internet protocols, into DMS as part of a new "evolutionary flexible architecture" backed by the Joint Staff and put into execution by Lockheed Martin Corp., the DMS prime contractor.

The move toward medium-assurance messaging reflects a recognition within DOD that "not every message needs to be signed and encrypted," Day said. For example, he added, medium-grade messaging will play a key role on the electronic commerce initiative championed by John Hamre, the deputy secretary of Defense.

By adding medium-grade messaging capability to DMS , users will have the option to use the same suite of products to handle both secure and signed organizational messages and medium-grade messaging, DISA said.

DISA issued a "sources sought" announcement in the Commerce Business Daily for medium-grade messaging products in late July, and the response from industry has been positive, Day said. A Lockheed Martin statement said DISA's move toward medium-grade messaging indicates "the government's continuing desire for interoperable solutions.... Lockheed Martin believes the architecture is well-positioned to embrace this evolution.''

Keith Attenborough, the DMS manager for Lotus Development Corp., a partner with Lockheed Martin on the DMS contract, said DISA's push for medium-grade messaging products does not "mark anything startling or radically new. They want to get more and more commercial."

John Menkart, regional DOD sales manager for Netscape Communications Corp., whose products DISA has tapped for the DOD electronic commerce pilot program, said his company not only supports medium-grade messaging, but DOD already has a license that will allow anyone in the department to use that product.

Frank Vretos, senior systems engineer in the Microsoft Corp. federal office, said DOD needs medium-grade messaging because those who need what he called "pure" high-grade DMS are "just a subset of people" within DOD.

But McCoy said the key issue for DOD is interoperability among all DMS medium-grade products. Day believes most of the players have come close to achieving that goal, but he is worried about "the final 5 percent" that is not interoperable.


  • Workforce
    White House rainbow light shutterstock ID : 1130423963 By zhephotography

    White House rolls out DEIA strategy

    On Tuesday, the Biden administration issued agencies a roadmap to guide their efforts to develop strategic plans for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA), as required under a as required under a June executive order.

  • Defense
    software (whiteMocca/Shutterstock.com)

    Why DOD is so bad at buying software

    The Defense Department wants to acquire emerging technology faster and more efficiently. But will its latest attempts to streamline its processes be enough?

Stay Connected