Taking on a thorny issue

Pentagon Area Common IT Wireless Security Policy

When Ronald Jost retired from his first career, the traditional notion of spending his days relaxing somehow was not in the cards.

Instead, Jost is spending his retirement in a way many would consider counter to the notion of how post-career years are meant to be spent.

After a 36-year career working with some of the most advanced wireless technology in the world, Jost was tapped late last year for one of the world's most daunting jobs: developing wireless policy for the Defense Department.

Jost, 55, enjoyed only a few weeks of time off after his career with Motorola Inc. ended before jumping back into the fray.

"Because I had been chief architect at Motorola, my options were pretty limited as to what I could do after retirement," he said. "DOD presented a good option. Because I had spent my career as a senior executive in wireless, it seemed a good fit."

But, only nine months into his position, Jost realized the enormity of the challenges he would face.

He spent the first few months on the job poring through documents, trying to learn the ropes and fully grasp exactly what Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and DOD chief information officer John Stenbit were looking for.

"I'm really just getting started. I've been here a few months and I needed the first few to understand what we needed, the challenges I face, and now we're really starting to engage," he said. "We are facing a number of challenges: we have to do more architecture on the wireless side of the [Global Information Grid]; we have to transform communications; and, from a policy side, we have to start to generate a policy for [wireless standard] 802.11 and other appliances."

DOD issued a policy in October 2002 calling for development of a wireless network infrastructure across the Pentagon while prohibiting wireless access to classified systems. It required that wireless devices used within the Pentagon incorporate technology — including authentication and encryption — for securing such communications. Since then, portions of an updated policy have been released, but nothing that has settled the ongoing issues regarding the use of wireless devices.

Many don't realize the extent of Jost's job, because such policy affects not only commercial wireless services (such as wireless local-area networks and standards such as 802.11) and devices that are going to be used at the Pentagon, but there isn't one all-encompassing policy. There will ultimately be several policies, which will cover areas such as satellite communications, tactical radios and strategic communications.

"I think I translate 'policy' a little differently than most," he said. "To me, policy is a framework that is set up to allow guidance for programs and implementation of communications systems. In the end, you find that policy is really an architecture."

Eustace King, the technology and capability division chief for the Defense Information Assurance program, said Jost's job will be difficult, but it is absolutely vital to the future of techno-logy and communications within the department.

"Wireless is absolutely necessary for the department because it's part of Stenbit's transformation plan," King said. "As we get more and more into a global information environment, to exclude the wireless piece would be to the detriment of the department and the non-accomplishment of our mission."

He said Jost faces challenges in the area of interoperability, which King is familiar with, and security, about which he knows a great deal.

"There are two problems [to face] when talking about wireless security," King said. "The first is that there are so many different offerings within the development community that it's a huge challenge for us [at DOD] to retain any standardization among the providers. And the second is that there are so many threats out there and wireless is inherently vulnerable."

Dawn Meyerriecks, chief technology officer for the Defense Information Systems Agency, said DOD's new vision of pushing information to the edge and allowing users to decide what to do with it will require the distribution of wireless devices into the field.

"It will be heavily reliant on getting adequate communications as far forward as possible," she said. "A good policy on wireless is necessary to be successful in delivering a quality of information to that edge user."

Jost started his professional life with Motorola in 1966 and worked for the company for nearly 20 years. He left Motorola for Esystems Inc. (a defense contactor that now is part of Raytheon Co.) in 1985, but returned to Motorola in 1994 and stayed until his retirement in 2002. He worked for much of his career in government systems, helping design satellite terminals and strategic communications systems.

Jost may be a lightning rod for controversy during the next several months and years, because he could draw both praise and criticism for instituting a policy that will be far-reaching.

And, although commands and agencies will have a say in shaping what that policy entails, the buck will most likely stop with Jost.


Title: Director of wireless, Defense Department.

Previous experience: Worked for 36 years in the wireless industry, mostly for Motorola Inc. Retired from the private sector in September 2002 and was tapped to head DOD's wireless initiatives in October 2002.

Education: Holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., and a master's and a doctorate in electrical engineering from Arizona State University.

Family facts: Daughter is an electrical engineer for Motorola Inc., son works for Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

What he likes to do when not working: Read technical journals ("I can't seem to break myself of the habit"), woodworking and carving.


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