DMS, despite failings, wins IG support

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, which ran from April 2002 to last month, DMS Release 2.2 was the version in use. Users "encountered problems with message delivery, nondelivery notices and the directory," the April 8 IG report stated. Further, Release 2.2 did not meet "requirements for confidentiality/security, integrity and availability/reliability" or requirements for emergency action messages, according to the report.

Also, DMS Release 2.2 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," according to the IG report, titled "Transition From the Automatic Digital Network to the Defense Message System." "In addition, DMS was not on schedule and planned savings of $453 million had not been realized."

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."

"I cannot comprehend how they are making such a determination that DMS should continue," said Paul Brubaker, former deputy chief information officer at DOD and currently a partner at ICG Government. "For a program that never met a cost schedule or performance goal, this is not just bordering on irresponsible, it is way over the line."

"DMS has been a money pit that people are afraid to criticize given all the money that has already been sunk into the program," he said, adding that he and others had pointed out "some seriously fundamental flaws in the program," but a message was clearly sent that DOD was committed to DMS and dissent was not welcome.

As of Sept. 30, 2002, DOD had spent about $9 billion in total program costs on DMS from fiscal 1990 through fiscal 2002. That amount includes investments of nearly $2.3 billion, operations and support costs of $150 million, and legacy 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 [fiscal] 2013," the report stated.

The audit's scope was limited and excluded tests of management controls, leaving 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 Inc.?

A draft of the report was issued March 14 to the ASD/C3I, but no comments were made, and the Joint Staff director's comments were received too late to be considered in preparing the final report. 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, the agency "will consider the comments received as the response to the final report."

Repeated attempts to contact Defense Information Systems Agency officials and DOD's CIO office for comment were unsuccessful.

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DMS not ready for intell Agencies

Release 3.0 of the Defense Message System does not satisfy intelligence community requirements for directory security, but Defense Information Systems Agency and intelligence officials have agreed on a solution to address directory security. Therefore, the Defense Department's inspector general report made no recommendations in that area.

"The [intelligence community] may not have a secure permanent messaging system available to meet its requirements by Sept. 30, 2003," according to the report. "Therefore, [those] 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."

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