DOD remains wired to a future Net

Next Generation Internet Initiative home page

A TV commercial teases viewers about the wireless possibilities of the Internet by asking: "What do you want the next-generation Internet to be?"

But in what could be construed as a reality check, the Defense Department has been conducting a Next Generation Internet pilot program for more than three months that doesn't include wireless communications.

"We're not looking at handheld devices. They're not a part of this pilot," said Michael Brig, NGI program manager for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SSC) in Charleston, S.C. "Most of the Internet today, at least in the U.S., is wired."

The Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Navy Modeling and Simulation Office are sponsoring the pilot project, which is under way at several sites, Brig said. While he would not disclose the program's budget, he said it is funded through fiscal 2001. Users include SSC-Charleston, as well as the Army's Communications-Electronics Command, the U.S. Pacific Command and a joint Defense Information Systems Agency and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency initiative.

Despite the dearth of wireless technologies in the pilot project, Ron Turner, the Navy's deputy chief information officer for infrastructure, systems and technology, said he has had recent discussions with an official at SSC-Charleston about wireless communications and NGI. While the use of wireless devices within DOD is exploding, only the Army has a formal networking policy on wireless communications, Turner said.

"I don't take a notebook on the road with me," Turner said, pointing to his BlackBerry handheld device made by Research in Motion Ltd. Also, thousands of DOD employees use the well-known Palm Inc. Palm Pilot handheld device — they either purchase the systems on their own or receive them as part of their jobs.

Paul Brubaker, the Pentagon's deputy chief information officer, is working on a DOD policy for handheld devices, Turner said.

As far as the existing Internet architecture is concerned, "there are a lot of issues with [Internet Protocol] V. 4," Brig said. "We're running out of available addresses [and] the scalability of the Internet [is] limited by addresses," he said. This trend has ramifications for DOD because the Non-Classified Internet Protocol Router Network sponsored by DISA and the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network for long-haul communications are based on IP Version 4, he said.

NGI, which is based on IP Version 6 architecture, was developed "almost exclusively for commercial use," as opposed to IP 4, which researchers at DARPA developed 22 years ago, Brig said.

In addition to providing mobility for users, IP 6 and NGI are more scalable than IP 4 and include mandated security features, Brig said. IP 6 also has automatic network configuration capabilities, which can better enable systems administrators to identify individual computers on a local-area network.


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