New DOD systems to use updated IP

New Defense Department technology that is part of the service's massive wired and wireless network must be compatible with the next-generation Internet protocol, known as IPv6, beginning later this year, according to DOD's top information technology official.

DOD's Global Information Grid is designed to connect warfighters worldwide. Moving to IPv6 will help DOD achieve its goal of network-centric warfare and operations by the end of the decade, said John Stenbit, assistant secretary of Defense for networks and information integration.

Following the commercial IT industry's push to the IPv6 standard, Stenbit signed a policy memorandum June 9 that outlines DOD's transition to the new protocol by 2008. That year was chosen because most experts estimate that widespread commercial adoption will take place from 2005 to 2007, he said.

Stenbit, who also serves as DOD's chief information officer, said the current IPv4 has been in use for almost 30 years. As a result, its fundamental limitations, along with the exponential global expansion of Internet use, hinder net-centric operations, which link disparate portions of the battlefield and increase the lethality of U.S. forces by providing situational awareness and knowledge superiority.

"We want to make it clear to our programs' major development activities that come online in the 2008 to 2010 time frame that the IPv6 standard, as it evolves, will be the department's standard," he said during a June 13 Pentagon press briefing.

He said IPv6 is designed to meet future commercial and DOD requirements, including improved end-to-end security, which is critical for DOD intranets that handle large amounts of classified information and traffic.

Eric Mantion, a senior analyst at In-Stat/MDR in Scottsdale, Ariz., said IPv4 allows for 4.3 billion IP addresses, which is not enough for all the computers, wireless phones, and GPS and other devices with IP addresses. IPv6 allows for every human being on Earth to have 1 trillion IP addresses.

"By converting to IPv6, DOD provides more safety and more standardization to prevent that," he said.

"IPv6 will also allow DOD to, once it starts inserting IP-based chips into every soldier and on every piece of equipment, to track all of them without having to worry about running out of IP addresses," Mantion said. DOD will be able to track every person, every rifle, every vehicle with an IP tag, "right down to every helmet. It will allow for better battlefield management, tracking of soldiers and supplies," he said.

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IPv6: The next generation

Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6), also known as next-generation IP, is a new version of IP developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force. It will enable the Internet to grow to handle the increasing number of host computers and expanding amount of data traffic.

Designed as an evolutionary upgrade from the current IPv4, with which it will coexist for some time, IPv6 will deliver improved end-to-end security and quality of service for functions such as video teleconferencing, voice-over-IP systems and mobile communications.

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