Good Stovepipes?

One could practically hear the entire Navy gasp last week at the AFCEA International command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance conference in San Diego when an unidentified Navy lieutenant stood up and asked if the services' stovepiped systems might actually be a good thing to have.

"Stovepiped systems, by their nature, add security," the lieutenant said. "It makes it harder for enemy forces to crack our systems. If they crack one, they still have four or five others to crack. How secure would one joint, standard, integrated system be?"

Rear Adm. Ken Slaght, commander of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, said that argument had been considered and rejected by the powers-that-be in the Defense Department.

"The reward for having a standard interoperable force far outweighs the risk," Slaght said. He then cited the Navy Marine Corps Intranet as a good example of just how secure a large, standardized network can be.

"Despite its knocks, NMCI shows what can be accomplished," he said. "While [some] industries have been hit hard by viruses over the past several years, NMCI has not had one successful attack to date. NMCI is a real-life demonstration that you can protect a large-scale infrastructure."

'Half-Mile from the Little Bighorn'

Few things will scare Marines, who are often touted as some of the toughest combatants in the history of warfare. But what does leave the service quaking in its collective combat boots is the concept of knowledge superiority, according to Marine Col. Art Corbett, director of the Future Warfighting Division at Marine Corps Base Quantico.

"'Knowledge dominance' does scare us as Marines," Corbett said. Gen. George Armstrong Custer "probably thought he had knowledge dominance, too. Any time you think you're smarter than your adversary, you're probably about a half-mile from the Little Bighorn.

"If the enemy knows where he laid a mine last night and you don't, he has relative knowledge dominance," he said.

DMS Debate Continues

After the recent DOD inspector general report gave the Defense Message System the go-ahead despite cost and schedule overruns, the Interceptor has been flooded with feedback both for and against the system.

The DOD chief information officer's office sent a three-part response that included a formal letter to the DOD IG, discussion of the findings and recommendations, and a matrix of factual errors. DMS was relieved of the requirement to support critical emergency action message transmission, and "there was lack of use of DMS because of operator discipline in building message addresses and cryptic nondelivery notices, and not because of incremental fielding," according to the letter.

The DOD CIO's office agreed with the lack of return on investment, because the department's Automatic Digital Network (Autodin) was kept open longer than expected, costs to develop DMS were underestimated, resources were redirected to support the Year 2000 problem, and there were user implementation delays.

In an April 11 letter to the IG, Linton Wells II, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, wrote that when Autodin closes, he expects a "one-for-one substitution of 'organizational-level' message traffic from Autodin to DMS." For that reason, "I do not feel there is utility in performing the message traffic analysis that you suggest in the report."

Wells did say that DOD is taking steps to obtain user feedback "so that later releases of the product can address users' needs."

However, an Army sergeant who requested anonymity sent the Interceptor this message last week: "DMS is also incompatible with [Microsoft Corp.] Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and all Microsoft Office updates after Service Release 1. To top things off, its 'abbreviated' installation instructions go on for 72 pages and the average install time is two to six hours."

CIO Conflict of Interest?

Paul Brubaker, former deputy CIO at DOD and currently a partner at ICG Government, was baffled that the IG report suggested DMS continue despite its failings and said the system illustrates "an inherent conflict of interest" in DOD's CIO office.

"Specifically, the CIO is responsible for the oversight of DOD's [information technology] portfolio yet is an advocate and functional proponent of this and other programs," Brubaker said. "One thing that became very clear is that there is no way the CIO, when combined with the [command, control and communications] functional responsibilities, can perform the CIO functions in a meaningful and independent manner. This clearly strained our credibility as an impartial oversight body."

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