DOD extends net reach

The U.S. Pacific Command (Pacom) and U.S. Central Command (Centcom) each use their own secure wide-area networks to communicate with coalition partners in their areas of the world, and now the two systems have been linked to create even greater global information-sharing possibilities.

Navy Capt. James Fordice, the U.S. Pacific Fleet's director for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, said Pacom's Combined Operations, or Coalition, WAN (COWAN) has a number of secure enclaves with various Asian-Pacific partners, including COWAN-K with Korea, COWAN-J with Japan, and COWAN-A, which supports Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Canada, Australia and the U.K. all have permanent COWAN links, in addition to their participation in the COWAN-A enclave, and all of those networks feature:

* E-mail with attachments

* Chat capabilities

* Replicated Web sites

* Collaborative tools

The enclaves with Japan and Korea are currently e-mail only COWANs, but Japan is interested in adding chats, Fordice said.

But COWAN-C, which links Pacom's system with Centcom's Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange (CENTRIX) system, was created "within the last 60 days," and is the star of the show, Fordice told Federal Computer Week following a Nov. 21 panel at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International's TechNet Asia-Pacific conference in Honolulu.

Fordice added that linking COWAN with CENTRIX was not difficult, because both systems are TCP/IP-based and basically provided the same information-sharing features.

"This is the biggest step forward in getting to a global coalition network to put all the players in," he said.

COWAN-C has not yet been used, but is available for "when we get to a point that we need it," Fordice said, adding that that shouldn't be too long because COWAN-A is in "almost continuous use," and the opportunity to link to even more coalition partners such as Germany, France and Italy will contribute to fighting the global war on terrorism.

Separate, physical COWAN local-area networks are required for each enclave, and can be set up for about $40,000 per ship. Fordice called the ship-based solution "COWAN-lite," and said it requires a laptop, a router, and a cryptographic tool linking into the standalone battle force e-mail system.

"COWAN is a success and is being used during Operation Enduring Freedom," but there are many restrictions on information sharing among the coalition partners, said Adm. Walter Doran, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. "We must get this one right."

Randall Cieslak, Pacom's chief information officer, agreed and said the most difficult part of that is overcoming individual nations' information-sharing policies, since some are willing to share certain data with the United States or another country, but not necessarily with all the other participants.

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