DOD extends global net

Two Defense commands have forged a link between their secure wide-area networks (WANs), making it easier for DOD forces and their coalition partners in different areas of the world to share information.

The link connects the U.S. Pacific Command's Combined Operations WAN (COWAN), which spans the Asia-Pacific region, with the U.S. Central Command's Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange (CENTRIX) system. CENTRIX supports more than 30 participating nations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The link with the Central Command, known as COWAN-C, will enable DOD and coalition partners to exchange e-mail and, in some cases, use other collaborative software.

COWAN already includes secure enclaves in a number of regions, 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.

But COWAN-C, created this fall, is the star of the show, said Navy Capt. James Fordice, the U.S. Pacific Fleet's director for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence.

"This is the biggest step forward in getting to a global coalition network to put all the players in," Fordice said at last month's AFCEA International TechNet Asia-Pacific 2002 conference.

COWAN-A is in "almost continuous use," and the opportunity to link to even more coalition partners will contribute to fighting the war on terrorism, he said.

Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom 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 and collaborative tools.

Linking COWAN with CENTRIX was not difficult because both systems are TCP/IP-based and provide the same information-sharing features, Fordice said.

"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."

The new Homeland Security Department faces similar obstacles and COWAN could serve as a model for early interoperability, said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org.

"Since COWAN has a demonstrated ability to support collaboration between agencies from different countries, it may provide an interesting model or exemplar for how to foster early interoperability among the various components of DHS," Pike said.

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What's new?

The U.S. Pacific Command and Central Command have linked their secure wide-area networks.

The goal: To achieve greater global information sharing among the commands and coalition partners worldwide.

The skinny: The Pacific Command's Combined Operations, or Coalition, WAN can communicate with the Central Command's Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange.

The operation could serve as a model for how to achieve greater communication among agencies in the Homeland Security Department.

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