DOD seeks expanded net-centric services

The Defense Information Systems Agency hopes to expand its use of collaboration technology beyond its traditional office applications,  agency officials said at an industry day event last week.

In many organizations, managers consider Web-based collaboration tools to be a way to help employees work together without increasing travel expenses.

But at the Defense Department, those tools are being incorporated into command-and-control operations, said Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Hermann, chief of the Net-Centric Enterprise Services branch at DISA.

As part of an upcoming procurement, DISA seeks to buy technology and related services that support the broad use of collaboration tools.

Security is a big concern, Hermann said. For example, “in some cases, we’re using chat instead of radio,” he said. “So our chat has more strict requirements than if it was just for meetings.”

That is one of many challenges the DISA NCES Program Management Office faces as it looks to adopt new managed collaboration services for the military’s classified and unclassified networks.

The agency is in the market research phase of the project and has asked industry for input on realistic options. The request for proposals for the yet-unnamed contract is scheduled to be released in January 2009.

The collaboration services must be based on commercial open standards, be Web-accessible, and support both Common Access Card and user ID/password authentication. The services must support users in areas with high or low bandwidth and intermittent network connections.

“How do you get chat to someone who doesn’t have good access to the enterprise?” Hermann asked industry representatives at the event. “Every time a ship rolls over a wave and gets disconnected, that’s not good.”

The new collaboration services should be able to deal with network connectivity problems, DISA officials said.

What DISA is looking for, although challenging, is feasible, said Pat Ryan, director of defense initiatives at Cisco Systems.

A system that uses multiple connection methods, such as satellite and radio, can toggle between the connection methods as conditions change. 

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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