DISA plans new top-secret presidential network

The White House Communications Agency (WHCA) has developed a six-year plan budgeted at $35 million to beef up presidential communications with a new top-secret network and multimedia Crisis Management System (CMS) designed to operate in a wide range of fixed locations, on Air Force One and on a new fleet of presidential helicopters.

The WHCA also said it plans to begin research on development of communications systems that can operate in High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) environments. HEMP, generated by a nuclear blast, can knock out most forms of radio communications.

The Defense Information Systems Agency, which manages WHCA, disclosed in its fiscal 2008 budget documents that the new top-secret network and CMS will provide the president, cabinet secretaries, and designated agency directors and their staffs with a secure, dedicated network capable of handling full motion video, voice graphics and data at 64 fixed and mobile locations.

The new network will also feature a collaborative tool suite similar to Microsoft Share Point. It will allow the top federal leaders to view and work on documents on the network’s video displays. Ten locations will be equipped with the new technology in 2008 at a cost of $12 million, according to the DISA budget documents.

DISA said it will equip two next-generation Boeing 747s that serve as Air Force One and nine new presidential helicopters with the new network and CMS. They will also be on six 757 and two 737 VIP aircraft used by the vice president and cabinet secretaries. The new network will provide the leaders with “near perfect reliability and communications survivability,” the DISA budget documents state.

DISA said it plans to build 10 new digital gateways -- two funded in the 2008 budget -- to serve the new White House network, with CMS hosted at three network operations centers. The WHCA also plans to use its requested $50 million 2008 budget to convert its unclassified voice and data networks to an IP infrastructure, upgrade and modernize wideband satellite communications systems, and equip the presidential limousine fleet with live satellite TV systems.

The WHCA has also asked for $3 million in 2008 for programs and projects covered by its National Emergency Decision Network, which includes shelters to protect communications from HEMP environments, and the Unclassified Emergency Network (UEN), a mobile radio system that serves the president and the secretaries of defense and state. UEN projects in 2008 include the installation of a new radio site and antenna in McLean, Va., to improve coverage in the greater Washington, D.C., area.

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