NCS prepping 'gee-whiz' pilot

The National Communications System is in the early stages of a Global Early Warning Information System (GEWIS) pilot project in which government and industry will examine the health and topology of the Internet.

The pilot project will assess how well critical areas of the Internet are performing worldwide, and then use that data to notify government, industry or U.S. allies of an impending cyberattack or possible disturbance, said Brenton Greene, deputy manager of NCS.

Those indicators will include looking at the performance of selected government and industry e-commerce sites, as well as tools to identify and detect worms or denial of service attacks, he said, adding that the pilot project (also called the Global Cyber Early Warning Information System) will not be ready for launch until next year.

"It's still early, but this is an idea whose time has come," Greene told FCW during an interview at his office in Arlington, Va. "The more we scratch at it, the more fascinating it gets."

NCS, which is co-managed by the White House and the Defense Information Systems Agency, assists the president, the National Security Council and federal agencies with their telecommunications functions and coordinates the government's national security and emergency preparedness communications. NCS includes the Government Emergency Telecommunications Service and the Wireless Priority Service in which government workers are given a code and are categorized for priority access. These services are used in emergencies and responded well following last year's Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The NCS also is working on two other pilot projects aimed at improving the reliability and speed of the telecommunications and wireless systems for first responders and other key personnel during a national crisis or disaster.

The first is an emergency notification system that would use Internet-based, wireless and other telecommunications to notify a "few thousand key people" in the Washington, D.C., area during a national disaster. That test would include the contact information of key personnel and would attempt to reach them by the fastest method available, Greene said.

The other NCS pilot project is aimed at establishing a backup dial tone for key federal buildings, Greene said, adding that the agency is in the "finalizing look at several technologies," including free space optics, which uses high-bandwidth laser links between buildings' backbones at close ranges.

Greene said he hopes to have those two pilots in limited release in October or November.

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