Navy, Marines miss latest DMS deadline

The Marine Corps and Navy missed the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Sept. 30 deadline

to shut off access to an aging communications network for sensitive and

classified messages.

The failures are the latest in a series of schedule slips for the Defense

Message System, which was supposed to be fully implemented for nontactical

forces as of Jan. 1, 2000, with the DMS tactical deployment to be completed

by 2003.

Defense Department officials want to shut off their Automatic Digital

Network (Autodin) gateways, which are costly to maintain, and use DMS software.

Because Navy officials were not able to use automated tools to convert

Address Indicator Groups to DMS mail lists, the deployment process has been

"very slow and very labor-intensive," said Lt. Jane Alexander, a Navy spokeswoman.

Service officials also are concerned about DMS user acceptance, training

and their ability to staff DMS message distribution centers, she said.

Citing DMS software "reliability and complexity," Capt. Stuart Upton,

a Marine Corps spokesman at Quantico, Va., confirmed that the Corps had

missed the Sept. 30 deadline. The Marines also have had difficulty supporting

DMS, and they have found configuring DMS servers running Microsoft Corp.

Windows NT Server 4.0 and Unix operating systems difficult.

The Marine Corps and Navy's DMS software is based on commercial Microsoft

Exchange 5.5 and Outlook 98 products.

Although they missed the Sept. 30 deadline, the Navy had completed its

DMS implementation for all but 12 sensitive but unclassified installations

out of 3,513 as of early November, Alexander said.

"A significant general concern with IT, which applies to DMS, is trying

to reduce the operational complexity of fielded systems to the point where

they can be more easily operated," Alexander said.

Because the Military Communications and Electronics Board approved the

use of medium-grade messaging for sensitive but unclassified tasks such

as contracts and correspondence, Navy officials plan to start deploying

it to a wider group of users later this fiscal year, Alexander said. As

many as 2 million users will use medium-grade messaging for DMS, which is

based even more exclusively on commercial software.

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