User praises DMS' security, ease of use

FARWANIYA, Kuwait — The Defense Message System (DMS) is faster, more secure and easier to use than its predecessor or any other similar military messaging system available to soldiers supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to one Army user.

DMS messages travel over the Defense Information Systems Network, which distributes voice, video and data messages. The system — a $1.6 billion effort to secure Defense Department communications worldwide — is designed for sending classified and top-secret information, delivering messages to DOD users at their desktops and to other agencies and contractors, if necessary.

Army Maj. Timothy Riley, an automation officer in the Coalition/Joint Forces Land Component Command communications office at Camp Doha, Kuwait, said there are two critical things DMS has enabled users to do since it went live in late February: send messages directly from writer to reader at the desktop and include attachments.

Before, users had to save messages on diskettes and then walk them over to a message center where they could be sent out, Riley said in a March 28 phone interview. "DMS cuts out the diskette step, allows you to send attachments...and is much more user friendly than the old [Automatic Digital Network] system."

Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Arthur Edgeson, senior systems engineer from the Fort Detrick, Md., office of Data Systems Analysts Inc., said DMS has experienced a noticeable increase in traffic since Operation Iraqi Freedom began March 20.

DMS messages look slightly different from Microsoft Corp. Outlook messages because of the strict security parameters. However, users can compose DMS messages on their computers and then use a Fortezza card, which has a cryptographic token for securing messages, to sign and encrypt them, a Defense Information Systems Agency official said in an interview earlier this month.

The fact that DMS enables users to validate both the sender and receiver of a message is a critical feature, Riley and Edgeson agreed.

"Yes, [DOD's Secret Internet Protocol Router Network] e-mail is classified, but it could be hacked into. Or if we're overrun by the enemy, they would have access to the computers and could send messages...to mislead or misdirect [coalition] forces," Edgeson said.

In Army-speak, DMS "enables nonrepudiation," Riley said, adding that he had some previous experience "on the client side" of the system, having used it at Fort Belvoir, Va.

Not all current Army DMS users here were familiar with the system, so ITT Industries Inc., which manages DMS for the service in southwest Asia, conducted training courses, although the company declined to provide details on how many people were trained or how long it took.

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