Navy charts own network course

The Navy took another step toward running its own networks last week with the release of a draft planning document that said the service may acquire long-haul telecommunications on a competitive basis rather than sticking with Defense Departmentwide networks operated by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

The planning document, "Department of the Navy Information Technology Infrastructure (ITI) Architecture," was released March 4 by the Navy's chief information officer, Daniel Porter. It stated that the Navy will use DISA as its wide-area network provider of advanced Asynchronous Transfer Mode networks when DISA "can provide the same or equal service at the same or less cost.... [But] when DISA is not competitive with alternative service providers, subscription will be obtained elsewhere at best value.''

The planning document also assumes that the Navy will own and operate its own regional Metropolitan Area Networks in areas with a high concentration of Navy personnel and activities, such as San Diego; the Tidewater, Va., area; the Puget Sound, Wash., area; and Oahu, Hawaii. The WAN plan, and to a lesser extent, the MAN proposal, contravenes existing DOD policies that call for the military services to acquire long-haul network services - including regional interconnections the Navy wants to provide through its MAN - from DISA over the Defense Information System Network.

Release of the ITI document formalizes calls by Navy leadership for development of a Navy Worldwide Intranet (NWI), deemed essential in a new era of network-centric and knowledge-centric warfare. In November, Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Archie Clemins issued a challenge to DOD to build a "global intranet" within a year. In January, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jay Johnson called for development and deployment of a "Navywide intranet" by 2001, saying that advanced communications networks have become essential to the Navy's "operational primacy."

Rear Adm. John Gauss, commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, said that while the ITI document will serve as the baseline for development of the NWI, it also should be viewed as a draft and subject to modification. Gauss, a DISA veteran who set up the Navy's first pilot MAN in the San Diego area and whose command will be responsible for the engineering of the NWI, said that even though the ITI document calls for alternatives to DISA, "I would prefer to use DISN...[but] price and performance must be considered."

Gauss said that he believes that DISA has "new initiatives under way for new DISN services'' that will address his price and performance concerns. If that happens, Gauss asked, "Why would I buy from anyone but DISA?''

Gauss added that a high-level DOD team, headed by Pentagon deputy CIO Marv Langston, has started a study of all DOD long-haul networks "that is forcing people to come to terms with affordability. Nothing we are doing is intended to usurp new policy from Dr. Langston.''

Dale Christensen, leader of the enterprise architecture and standards team at the Navy CIO office which developed the ITI document, also emphasized the draft nature of the plan, saying the document is up for discussion at the Navy CIO board of representatives meeting in April. The board is made up of CIOs from all the major Navy commands.

Christensen said that the reason the ITI document suggested alternatives to DISN is the Navy's tight budget, which has forced the service to examine ways it can save money. The ITI plan offered several long-haul alternatives for the Navy and Marine Corps, including the Defense Research and Engineering Network, which uses pipes supplied by AT&T, and the Naval Seas Systems Command's SmartLink network. Both DREN and Smart-Link are existing high-speed, nationwide networks using ATM technology.

The ITI document also said the Navy could run its own formal procurement for the WAN, seeking bids from not only DREN and SmartLink but also the General Services Administration's FTS 2001 contractors.

Industry and military sources last week said the ITI document reflects increasing frustration with DISA pricing and services within the Navy - a frustration that is mirrored in the Army and to a lesser extent, in the Air Force.

Telecommunications analyst Warren Suss took an opposing view, saying he believed DISA has grown more responsive to its customers. "There is a growing sense of confidence at DISA that they can offer a good deal to the services,'' Suss said. DISA did not return calls asking for comment.


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