Net Power

We have heard for years that the Defense Department was focused on networks. And that was certainly evident at the Military Communications 2002 conference in Anaheim, Calif., last week, where talk about network-centricity dominated.

John Stenbit, DOD chief information officer, said that information technology has enabled the military to become highly efficient at its mission. Traditionally, fighting forces have needed a 3-to-1 advantage to effectively attack an enemy. But today, using network-centric warfare and emerging technologies, that ratio has shifted to 1-to-3,000.

"It is clear that things are different today," he said.

The goal for the future is making the network even more ubiquitous.

Dawn Meyerriecks, chief technology officer for the Defense Information Systems Agency, said the organization prefers the term "net-centric."

"We're taking the 'work' out of 'networks,'" she said. "We want to make the network kind of disappear into the background for the warfighter."

The idea is to make data available on networks almost immediately — even before that information has been fully analyzed. That way, the warfighter can make sense of the information as soon as possible.

The immediate focus is building the infrastructure to support those networks. To that end, DOD is leading the Global Information Grid bandwidth expansion effort, which will bring more bandwidth to some 90 bases around the world.

DOD IT leaders appear unified on a concept of the future.

"We're betting the farm on getting this IT right," Meyerriecks said.

Venture Capitalism

The attitude in the IT business world has certainly changed. Just two years ago, IT companies saw the government sector as an aside. Today, they are looking to the government to ensure their growth.

DOD officials are hoping to take advantage of that newfound influence to improve IT products.

A number of IT officials from DOD, who were already on the West Coast last week for MilCom 2002, took the opportunity to travel from Disneyland to Silicon Valley to visit IT industry leaders.

DOD officials hope to learn about what is being developed, but they also hope to let industry leaders know about the department's priorities.

Officials are even considering launching a venture capital firm, similar to the CIA's In-Q-Tel, an IT incubator for intelligence technologies.

DOD's Security Bible

IT security officials throughout the department have been anxiously awaiting the release of DOD's information assurance directive, which will guide services on how to secure their networks.

That policy could be out in just a few weeks, according to Robert Lentz, director of information assurance for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence.

The services have been put in something of a bind beginning this summer because they were required to purchase only certified information assurance products. But there has been no DOD guidance on how to carry out that policy.

Lentz said the directive, DOD 8500, will cover everything from implementing that policy to accessing controls to high-speed firewall protection.

Information assurance has become essential within DOD, especially as net-centric operations take hold, he said. Enemies, after all, also know the power of the U.S. military network and will undoubtedly target it as a way of defeating the United States.

"Warfighters must be able to trust all of the information that they need," Lentz said. n

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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, 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,, 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, 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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