DOD IG: Keep troubled DMS going

Transition From the Automatic Digital Network to the Defense Message System

The Defense Message System (DMS) is not on schedule to replace the Automatic Digital Network (Autodin) by Sept. 30 or meet cost-savings goals, but the troubled system should be allowed to continue, according to a new report from the Defense Department's inspector general.

DMS is a multibillion-dollar effort to secure DOD communications worldwide and is expected to reach full operational capability by fiscal 2008 through a series of software releases. DOD fielded DMS Release 3.0 in June 2002, with a scheduled operational date of April 2003.

However, during the audit period, DMS Release 2.2 was the version in use. Users "encountered problems with message delivery, nondelivery notices and the directory," the April 8 DOD IG report stated. In addition, Release 2.2 did not meet "requirements for confidentiality/security, integrity and availability/reliability" or requirements for emergency action messages, according to the report.

In noting that DMS Release 3.0 should satisfy all these requirements, the IG report said that "DMS Release 2.2 did not meet all user requirements and was not widely used because the system was fielded incrementally and [the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (ASD-C3I)] and the Joint Staff did not provide adequate guidance and oversight of the DMS program.

"As a result, DMS may not be able to replace the critical Autodin emergency action messaging capability by Sept. 30, the date DOD plans to stop using Autodin and close the DMS transition hubs. In addition, DMS was not on schedule and planned savings of $453 million had not been realized," according to the DOD IG report, titled "Transition From the Automatic Digital Network to the Defense Message System."

Nevertheless, the IG report recommended that "DMS Release 3.0 should be allowed to operate and given appropriate support for a reasonable amount of time to determine whether it can meet user requirements. If DMS does not meet user requirements, then a survey should be conducted and a working group established to develop a solution to satisfy user requirements."

As of Sept. 30, 2002, DOD had spent about $9 billion in total program costs — fiscal 1990 through fiscal 2002 — on DMS. That amount included investments of nearly $2.3 billion, operations and support costs of $150 million, and legacy (Autodin) phase-out costs of $6.65 billion.

Therefore, instead of its planned savings of $453 million, "it will incur a negative return on investment of at least $266 million for general service messaging capabilities over the life of the DMS program through FY 2013," the report stated.

DOD's IG performed the audit from April 2002 through last month, but its scope was limited and excluded tests of management controls, which has at least one Autodin advocate wondering why.

"I am outraged by the nonfindings of this report," according to a former Air Force and electronics industry official familiar with both Autodin and DMS. "With gross cost overruns on the bill, they don't look at management? Why do they accept promises for future deliveries when in the past seven and a half years, all they did was build another [America Online]?"

DMS 3.0 also does not satisfy intelligence community requirements for directory security, but the Defense Information Systems Agency and the intelligence community have agreed on a solution to address the directory security requirements, so the DOD IG report did not make any recommendations in that area.

"The IC [intelligence community] may not have a secure permanent messaging system available to meet its requirements by Sept. 30, 2003. Therefore, IC agencies will have to rely on legacy and existing systems, such as the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System...and other forms of secure e-mail, to provide messaging services," according to the report.

A draft of the report was issued March 14 to the ASD-C3I, but that office did not provide comments, and comments from the Joint Staff's director were received too late to be considered in preparing the final report. Therefore, DOD's IG is requesting that the ASD-C3I provide comments by May 8, and if the Joint Staff director does not submit additional comments by then, "we will consider the comments received as the response to the final report."

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