More problems, delays for DMS

First, it was Sept. 30. Then, Dec. 30. Now, the military's new Defense Message System probably won't completely replace the current message network until early next year.

The Defense Department is struggling to meet error-rate requirements and complete the necessary testing on one of message system's key features, according to officials from the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).

DMS is a multibillion-dollar effort to secure military communications worldwide, replacing the Automated Digital Network (Autodin). Messages on the system travel over the Defense Information Systems Network, distributing classified and top-secret voice, video and data messages to defense users, contractors and other agencies.

More testing is needed on a hybrid solution used to deliver messages for emergency action and nuclear command and control, officials said. The emergency action system is undergoing operational testing, which will not be completed by Dec. 30.

Autodin and the current system for emergency messages will continue running until the latter's replacement is approved, said a DISA spokesperson, who blamed the delay on "test-site preparation in the face of real-world situations and high-operations tempo."

Officials say that some military commands have not yet met the mandated error rate of 2 percent or less for nondelivery notices on DMS, which has the same rules for acceptable error rates as Autodin. Invalid directory entries cause the most nondelivery notices, a DISA spokesperson said. Military officials, including the assistant secretary of defense for networks and information integration, have devoted a lot of attention to the issue over the past several months, the spokesperson said.

Most users have achieved the 2 percent error threshold, the spokesperson said, adding that the rest are getting the appropriate attention for solving the problem before Sept. 30, when Autodin is scheduled to shut down for nonemergency messages.

Despite cost overruns and missed deadlines that plagued the system, DOD's inspector general approved DMS in an April report. DISA officials and DOD chief information officer John Stenbit told Federal Computer Week earlier this year that DMS was on schedule to replace Autodin by Sept. 30.

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