Letter to the editor

I read your article "DOD rapped on switch policy" and then the General Accounting Office report (GAO-02-681).

I was surprised by the very limited amount of data GAO presented (number of vendors interviewed and contracts reviewed) to make its case. I was astonished that neither architecture of any flavor nor the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) was mentioned. GAO indicates "our review focused on DOD's management of its certification process and the implementation of this process. It did not address the technical testing environment and standards for certifying switches."

I believe they missed the point. The GAO report fails to describe the underlying processes that must be integrated into the overall management of the Defense Switched Network.

The Capability Maturity Model-Integrated (CMMI) identifies six support process areas: configuration management, process and product quality assurance, measurement and analysis, causal analysis and resolution, decision analysis and resolution, and organizational environment for integration.

Process and product quality assurance addresses quality and non-compliance issues as well as standards and procedures. Clearly, the certification process could be better addressed within this framework.

Regarding standards, what about the highly touted Joint Technical Architecture (JTA)? According to the executive summary in JTA Version 3.1, "The JTA provides DOD systems with the basis for the needed seamless interoperability. The JTA defines the service areas, interfaces, and standards (JTA elements) applicable to all DOD systems, and its adoption is mandated for the management, development, and acquisition of new or improved systems throughout DOD."

JTA Version 3.1 includes ANSI T1.619, which defines the ISDN access and SS7 protocol required to support the multilevel precedence and preemption (MLPP) service which provides prioritized call handling service. It also includes ANSI T1.619a which revises the original standard so that the exchange-to-exchange signaling is consistent with ITU Recommendation Q.955.3 (1993) and ITU Recommendation Q.735.3 (1993), which were approved after the publication of ANSI T1.619-1992.

So where's the problem? Are current standards incomplete or outdated? Unfortunately, GAO chose to ignore this subject entirely. The very narrow focus of the GAO audit obviously precluded capturing any meaningful performance data on MLPP functionality in the Defense Switched Network.

The GAO recommendation to "advance the state of maturity of DOD's telecom switch certification and authorization process?" is fatally flawed since it is based on an incomplete assessment of the underlying support processes. Maturing the switch certification and authorization process will mean very little if the support processes (e.g. test procedures, standards, etc.) are not fully developed.

Former DISA employee
Name withheld by request


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