DISA backs wireless net

The Defense Information Systems Agency is on board with plans to help create a wireless priority system for the government's short- and long-term communications needs, according to the agency's chief.

The Wireless Priority Access Service is a "national priority" and is being funded outside the Defense Department to aid emergency response efforts in selected cities, said DISA director Lt. Gen. Harry Raduege, Jr.

In addition, a longer-term program to create a nationwide system is still being worked out, but Raduege said he recently sent letters to the chief executive officers of 13 companies requesting ideas on how to do it. Those responses are now coming in.

The National Communications System, the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service, mobile satellite services and a secure video teleconferencing system were among the systems that faced unprecedented demand after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Raduege said, adding that all met the challenge.

Also effective was the Wireless Emergency Response Team, which helped guide rescuers to potential victims trapped in the World Trade Center rubble by locating and calling cellular phone numbers of the missing, Raduege said. He was speaking Oct. 30 at the MILCOM conference in Vienna, Va.

However, wireless phone connectivity, especially in New York City and Washington, D.C., was unreliable after the tragedies and a new wireless priority system now under development aims to avoid that in the future.

Raduege said DISA's efforts to keep government and other emergency response personnel connected after the attacks was aided by a transformation process that was set in motion before Sept. 11.

After joining DISA 18 months ago, Raduege designated six, new principle directorates comprising the Defense Department's Global Information Grid. Each focused on a different area of connectivity.

The six directorates are: the foundation, which focuses on interoperability; communications, or network services; computing, which includes hardware, software, Web access and others; global applications engineering; network operations; and customer advocacy.

As further evidence of the success of the program, Raduege noted that in 1990, DOD used 10,000 employees to manage 194 computing centers at a cost of about $1 billion. Currently, 1,300 employees manage six sites at a cost of about $348 million.

That equates to 87 percent fewer employees managing 97 percent fewer systems at 66 percent lower cost, "while the workload has increased 60 percent," he said.

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