Wall-to-wall transformation

IT systems at the core of Pentagon rennovation

Renovation of the Pentagon’s physical structure, which includes replacing more than 100,000 miles of copper and fiber-optic cabling, is continuing ahead of its original schedule.

Before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the project was expected to be finished by 2015. “After Sept. 11, Congress asked us to ... change to a more aggressive schedule,” said Sajeel Ahmed, deputy director for IT in the Pentagon Renovation and Reconstruction Office.

Renovation of Wedge 1, where work had been nearing completion when it was struck by an airliner on 9/11, was restarted, and completed in 2004. Work on the 1.4-million-square-foot Wedge 2 was completed Dec. 31. Wedge 3, just started, is to be finished in October 2007.

The IT portion of just-completed Wedge 2 includes work done under a 24-month, $245 million systems integration contract. With EDS Corp. as prime contractor, the Command Communications Survivability Program (CCSP) aimed to fix “as many single-point vulnerabilities as were identified” by Sept. 11, Ahmed said.

They include “how the lines come into the building, what happens to the infrastructure inside the building itself and how it was laid out before Sept. 11.”

The goal, said EDS project lead Ernie Willard, was “to make the Pentagon IT systems more manageable, flexible, secure, available and survivable.”

Installing the CCSP infrastructure meant combining several components, Ahmed said. One was use of Gigabit Ethernet networking, introduced in DOD several years ago and now broadening in scope.

Another was a Multiprotocol Labeling System, which increases network speed and management capabilities. MPLS creates “virtual networks on top of the physical network, the physical infrastructure itself,” he said.

The meshing of elements “links organizations, or the offices, under separate services that are in physically different places; but to [users], the net looks like one network,” he said.
Ahmed said the renovation program has moved away from Asynchronous Transfer Mode and, gradually, toward voice over IP.

DOD installed a few VOIP phones as part of the CCSP program—mainly for emergency connectivity, not to replace the primary phone system. But mass deployment of VOIP is, “something we’re looking at as the technology keeps maturing,” he said.

Ahmed said progress is being made as well on another, long-term task: continuity-of-operations plans to provide redundant communications systems that could be activated in emergencies.

Parallel tracks

Meanwhile, throughout CCSP’s two-year life span, the pre-Sept. 11 IT renovation continued, Ahmed said.

“We had the (IT) renovation project going in parallel with what we are doing with CCSP; we had three major IT projects—two in the building itself—at the same time,” he said.

Before IT components are laid in, Ahmed explained, “we do the demolition of the wedge first. Old IT, communications and power wire is removed.”

Then, as construction proceeds, “at some point we start putting IT infrastructure in,” along with heating, ventilation, electricity, furniture, wall drops and ancillaries.

“So, when the users move in they have everything available,” he said.

Ahmed said the most daunting challenges have included:
  • Scheduling conflicts, because the pace required doing some things in parallel

  • Making the wedge code-compliant while hewing to federal Historic Trust requirements

  • Unexpected security issues related to wireless communications.

A final challenge was future flexibility: installing an IT infrastructure that can accommodate changes in mission requirements without substantial rewiring.

At least temporarily, some legacy IT systems will remain, overlapping and integrating with newer technology, he said.

“As the technology advances—VOIP, voice and data and video systems—and the demand on the IT infrastructure changes ... we are providing the infrastructure to support the net-centric environment.”

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