DOD envisions virtual Pentagon

In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Defense Department is developing plans for a "virtual Pentagon" that would enable DOD officials to continue to work even in the event of a large scale attack on the Pentagon, senior military information technology officials said.

The plans, which are referred to either as the "virtual Pentagon" or the "distributed Pentagon," are a significant redesign of DOD's IT contingency plans, which were found to be inadequate as a result of the crash.

"[Sept. 11] was a wake-up call [where people said], 'Oh, that could happen to my data,' " said Margaret Myers, DOD's acting deputy chief information officer.

The attacks showed that there were some vulnerabilities, she said in an Oct. 29 presentation at the MILCOM conference in Vienna, Va. There were some single points of failure where systems were not sufficiently distributed.

"We are working to address these issues," she said.

The plans focus on creating redundancies and locating those backup sites away from the Pentagon so operations can continue even if there is an attack similar to the one sustained Sept. 11, she said.

The plans are more than just a tweaking of the existing plans, Myers noted. "Part of the waking up is that we discovered the plans weren't adequate," she said.

The Army's budget office, which sustained a significant number of causalities, also lost a significant amount of data, she said.

The Navy, which lost about 70 percent of its Pentagon space in the attack, did lose some data, but the Navy had its backup stored off-site at another Navy facility.

DOD's contingency plans made prior to the Year 2000 date change provide some valuable information, but do not go far enough, Myers said.

"It helped in knowing where the critical paths were, and that was useful information," she said. But it did not address the issue of contingencies if the paths were destroyed altogether, she said.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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