Pentagon bolsters net mandate

The Pentagon has established a new policy that makes the Global Information

Grid Waiver Board the sole authority for approving area networks not using

the Defense Department's mandated network.

The Defense Information Systems Network is DOD's mandated network for

voice, data and video, and it is maintained by the Defense Information Systems

Agency. Under two new policies, anyone seeking exemptions to the mandate

must get a waiver from the Global Information Grid Waiver Board, made up

of representatives from various parts of DOD.

DISN is one element of the Global Information Grid (GIG), which is

designed to provide seamless, fully interoperable data to military forces,

from regional commanders in chief to soldiers in the foxhole. It is "the

globally interconnected, end-to-end set of information capabilities, associated

processes and personnel for collecting, processing, storing, disseminating

and managing information on-demand to warfighters, policy-makers and support

personnel."

"This [waiver] process ensures that Defense Department network solutions

are optimized in terms of cost, inter-operability and security," said a

Pentagon spokeswoman. "[It] ensures that leadership becomes aware of emerging,

more challenging requirements, which often push the envelope of today's

capabilities. Knowing these emerging requirements is the key to solving

them.

"The waiver board also examines existing legacy networks, with a view

toward obviating the need for their nonstandard solutions and enabling the

department to realize even further network economies."

The policy memos cover both the networks and network operations, according

to the spokeswoman, and will be implemented by the assistant secretary of

defense for command, control, communications and intelligence.

Tony Valletta, former acting assistant secretary of defense for command,

control, communications and intelligence, praised the policies for instituting

a formal process. Valletta is an executive at Fairfax, Va.-based SRA International

Inc.

"When you're as big as the Department of Defense, you have to have some

discipline. Whether it is done through a board, office, policy, committee

or man, you need that basic discipline. Otherwise, people will be going

around doing their own thing, and you'll pay for it by finding out things

aren't working on the battlefield. And you'll pay for it with soldiers'

lives," Valletta said.

"If anyone is allowed to build a network that does not meet the [GIG]

architecture, we'll pay for it in the future," he said.

Another analyst, however, said the Defense Department's history of

maintaining different systems that do not inter-operate raises serious doubts

about the board's potential effectiveness.

"This is not a new problem. It's simply a resurfacing of an old problem

in modern guise. The problem is that there are various parts of the military's

vast telecommunications system with various owners in charge," said Ken

Allard, vice president for Stratfor.com. "The GIG is really there for the

warfighters who have neither the budget nor the authority to really effect

any change."

Although Valletta said he hopes the board will receive few requests

for exemptions, Allard said he anticipates many such requests will come

in. "Sure there will be lots of exemptions. Why else would you even have

a board?"

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