DOD nears resolving MAN conflicts

The Pentagon has edged closer to resolving a long-running turf battle between the four services and the Defense Information Systems Agency over control and management of metropolitan-area networks (MANs), with a top Defense Department official indicating the services could soon control their MAN destinies.

Marvin Langston, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, said his office is in the process of pushing a "bow wave" - the wave created by the a ship as it moves through water - of new networking policy documents through the Pentagon. He anticipates a new networking policy would put the services in control of MANs.

Rear Adm. John Gauss, commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, has strongly supported this policy change. He has said that the concentration of large numbers of Navy units and personnel in areas such as San Diego logically dictated the establishment of a MAN in those areas. The MAN would then serve as an entry point into long-haul networks operated by DISA. Current DOD network policy requires the Navy to install multiple and costly connections to the long-haul Defense Information Systems Network in areas such as San Diego; Norfolk, Va.; and Hawaii.

Langston, speaking at last week's GovTechNet International Conference and Exposition in Washington, D.C., said he expects many of the key policy documents under development by his Global Network Information Enterprise (GNIE) "to be wrapped up and vetted by this summer," including the current DISA long-haul policy.

Barbara Falkner, also a member of the task force, said DOD needs to change the current DISA long-haul policies, which mandate DISN as the sole DOD long-haul carrier. "They are frequently circumvented because cost concerns work against compliance," Falkner said.

Langston hinted that the new long-haul network policy would shift DISA away from its historic focus on the commercial, outmoded, circuit-based network architecture and toward a network services architecture. DISA, Langston said, now takes a "schizoid" approach to network architecture, selling both circuits and network services to its customers in the four armed services. This approach has led the services to create their own networks, he said, estimating that this has resulted in DOD operating "80 to 150 separate and distinct networks."

The new GNIE policy documents cover more than networks, Langston said. The documents emphasize enterprise applications and new business practices to manage the systems, which power the world's single largest organization. "We're trying to create an enterprise computing infrastructure combined with a bow wave of process change," he said.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Howard Mitchell, another member of the GNIE task force, said the new policy documents will touch aspects of DOD information technology policy ranging from local-, metropolitan- and long-haul network policies to the enterprise computing policy and will cover items ranging from desktops to DOD computing megacenters, network management and information assurance.

GNIE, Langston said, also will incorporate policies and architectures embodied in the DISA-developed Defense Information Infrastructure Common Operating Environment, which provides a highly detailed guide for the software and hardware components of the Pentagon's strategic and tactical networks and systems. The DII COE is "alive and well," Langston said, but he added that it needs to be updated to support the DOD's "business and finance programs and systems."

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