DMS at a glance

It has been more than 12 years since the Pentagon decided to replace its Automatic Digital Network (Autodin), and it will be another three years before the network's successor is fully operational.

In the late 1980s, Government Open System Interconnection Profile was set to become the standard system for all governmentwide networks, according to Susan Hansen, a Pentagon spokeswoman. In the early 1990s, the Defense Department created the Defense Message System (DMS) program office, and Loral Federal Systems—later acquired by Lockheed Martin Corp.—won the $1.6 billion DMS contract from the Defense Information Systems Agency. The current version being fielded is DMS 2.2.

DMS program managers have missed program deadlines during the past 18 months, which is just one sign of the program's shortcomings. The Joint Chiefs of Staff imposed a Dec. 31, 1999, deadline for nontactical organizations to stop using Autodin, but in light of Year 2000 preparations, officials scrapped that requirement.

The Joint Chiefs set a Sept. 15, 2000, deadline for organizations to report that they were operational users of DMS for top-secret and collateral messages. Only one DOD organization apparently met that deadline—the Army National Guard headquarters in the Washington, D.C., area.

In a memo earlier this year, Art Money, chief information officer at DOD, set the new top-secret/collateral deadline as June 30, 2001.

The ultimate deadline for all DOD organizations—tactical and nontactical—to ditch Autodin is Sept. 30, 2003. Once DOD abandons Autodin, it won't have to pay $30 million each year for dedicated Autodin circuits and DMS transition hubs. Military personnel also will no longer require training to operate both systems.

By 2003, DMS will be able to handle emergency action messages, which the armed services use to command and control nuclear-capable forces, said Rear Adm. Robert Nutwell, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and space.

By that time, several U.S. allies who use Autodin, such as England, will deploy software with DMS-like capabilities using the same X.400 standards and Fortezza-like user authentication features, Nutwell said. Other allies and U.S. agencies still using Autodin will use a translator to communicate with DOD personnel.

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