Clemins calls for DODwide intranet
- By Bob Brewin
- Nov 15, 1998
Adm. Archie Clemins, commander of the Pacific Fleet and the driving force behind the program that will allow the Navy to fight future battles using commercial networks and computers, this month called for a grander plan to build a worldwide intranet to link the three military services.
Clemins said the massive intranet would support the Joint Chiefs of Staff's future warfighting strategy of "information superiority," which is the ability to use collaborative networks and smart weapons to defeat larger enemy forces. U.S. forces, which traditionally depended on bigger and better weapons to improve warfighting capability, now depend on knowledge derived from computers and networks to mount attacks, Clemins said. He urged the Pentagon leadership to build the network to manage everything from command and control to human resources.
"The military is about the law of transformation,'' Clemins said. Information is the key ingredient for transformation, "making information technology nine times more important [than ever before].... It turns out to be our lifeblood."
Clemins, who sketched out the intranet plan this month at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association's TechNet Asia-Pacific '98 Conference and Exposition in Honolulu, challenged the Pentagon to build the system within a year. Clemins would not offer specifics on how the Defense Department could build the global system by the end of 1999, saying, "I don't do contracting." He indicated, however, that the tight schedule he envisioned would require direct involvement by the three services.
Clemins' intranet plans surprised top officials at the Defense Information Systems Agency, which has been developing the worldwide, tri-service Defense Information Systems Network for more than five years. The day after Clemins' speech, sources said DISA officials met with key staff members in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, urging them to reissue and then enforce a more-than-year-old policy memo mandating that the services use DISN for all their long-haul network requirements.
A DISA spokesman said the agency found it "difficult to comment on remarks made by Adm. Clemins at the AFCEA conference in Hawaii when we did not hear Adm. Clemins' speech and do not know in what context his statements were made."
But sources said Clemins has enough support in other parts of the Pentagon— including John Douglas, assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, and Adm. Paul Reason, commander of the Atlantic Fleet— to override any resistance from DISA.
The Navy also has a staunch ally in Marv Langston, the Pentagon's deputy chief information officer, who previously served as the Navy's CIO after a long-term career as a naval officer. Industry sources aware of the infighting say Langston has embraced Clemins' plan.
Rear Adm. John Gauss, commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (Spawar), said last week that he has been tasked by Navy leadership to deploy a worldwide intranet for the Navy, adding that he can meet Clemins' deployment schedule. "This is not a law-of-physics problem," he said. "It can be done in a year. Industry has the capacity to do the job."
Gauss said the Navy intranet plans are far more complex than just installing long-haul pipes. To develop the intranet, Gauss said the Navy has to develop a fully integrated network architecture, starting with local-area networks in buildings that then hook up to larger networks covering naval bases. Those naval base networks, in turn, hook into larger metropolitan-area networks in cities where the Navy has a substantial presence.
The Navy has nearly completed a huge deal with Lotus Development Corp. for its groupware (see related story, Page 1). Navy officials, however, said they need other software products to build the intranet— possibly Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT operating system and Office suite as well as security, videoconferencing and Internet browser software.
Gauss, who served at DISA before taking over as director of Spawar, said the Navy would like to use DISA as the supplier of the long-haul backbone for the Navy intranet, "but affordability has to be considered.''
Gauss said a declining DOD budget has put the Navy into a "financial death spiral,'' pushing the Navy to find less expensive network alternatives. He said the Navy also will consider leasing a long-haul carrier's switched Asynchronous Transfer Mode service. Gauss emphasized that regardless of the route the Navy takes, the service still intends to use DISN and DISN nodes for services such as security.
Industry executives said building the intranet in a year would be difficult. "If you buy a network 'cloud' [an end-to-end service on a public network] and a couple of hundred nodes, you could do it in a year," said Diana Gowen, director of DOD sales and marketing for MCI WorldCom Government Markets. But if the Navy installed its own ATM switches— a move that would provide greater security— "then it's a two-year project," Gowen said.
Peter Buck, the Information Technology for the 21st Century program manager at Electronic Data Systems Corp., said, "Getting a world-class intranet up and running in a year is a huge challenge, but it is doable if they get the right help from industry."