DOD awards intell net-centric pilot

The Defense Department last week awarded a multimillion-dollar contract for the intelligence portion of the Net-Centric Enterprise Services project to McDonald Bradley Inc.

The pilot project, which the Defense Information Systems Agency is running, would enable the military and intelligence communities to access information relevant to their missions regardless of what agency operates the network where the data resides, said Rob Walker, DISA's program manager for the pilot program.

In a network-centric environment, data would be made available as quickly as possible to those who need it across the organization or on the battlefield.

Many DOD systems in the field today use a client/server architecture. The key will be shifting those systems to a service architecture so that all users can see the tactical picture, Walker told Federal Computer Week last month in an interview.

The Net-Centric Enterprise Services initiative, which was launched late last year, would create an infrastructure that will enable users to quickly take advantage of DOD and intelligence community networks, eliminating the system-by-system approach, Walker said.

The system will enable users to customize the way they search and actually view information in real-time and display previously unavailable combinations of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data. Access based on individual users' security clearances will be built into the design.

Kenneth Bartee, president of McDonald Bradley, said the company was excited to be named the prime intelligence contractor for project. The company will build off of its 28-month customer relationship with DOD, having completed a multimillion-dollar prime contract on the department's intelligence Virtual Knowledge Base project — a forerunner to the current award.

For the Virtual Knowledge Base project, Bartee said his company focused on the high-level Internet architecture and high-end requirements, especially security applications. It also looked at how to collect information from different systems and get the most relevant data to the warfighter in the field quickly, safely and securely, Bartee said.

The new one-year, $7.8 million contract was awarded March 6 and will use emerging standards and the experience gained on the Virtual Knowledge Base project to develop an open-standard solution that is compliant with Sun Microsystems Inc. Java 2 Enterprise Edition. A J2EE infrastructure supports Web services and can enable the development of secure, interoperable business applications.

The architecture will use Semantic Web technologies, also known as "smart tagging." The Semantic Web uses artificial intelligence so a user's query gets the most relevant hits from its system or other connected systems, Bartee said.

Some critics question whether smart tagging is possible, but the Defense Intelligence Agency is "out in front" in this area, Bartee said, adding that even if it is impossible, the research will still result in improved data tagging and the ability for defense and intelligence agencies "to share information without rebuilding platforms or databases."

Northrop Grumman Corp. is McDonald Bradley's prime subcontractor on the latest Net-Centric Enterprise Services award, he said.

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