DOD preps virtual Pentagon

DOD has launched a program to create a virtual Pentagon that would provide backup networks and communications

The Defense Department has launched a program to create a virtual Pentagon that would provide backup networks and communications to avoid the loss of essential functions that the Pentagon experienced during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

The Pentagon Renovation Program Office has issued a presolicitation notice for its estimated $400 million Command Communications Survivability Program (CCSP), formerly known as the virtual Pentagon. Defense officials said that although the name has changed,the program's focus remains the same.

"The goal of this program is to ensure redundancy, survivability, recoverability, manageability, availability, scalability and security" for Pentagon systems, according to a presolicitation notice issued by the Pentagon Renovation Program Office late last month.

Among the problems DOD encountered Sept. 11 was a computing environment with many points of failure — applications or databases that, if removed, could not be recovered and critical network links that, if down, could not be worked around.

DOD officials have said that the terrorist attacks were a dramatic wake-up call. The attacks severed one of the Pentagon's main communications lines and destroyed some Army and Navy servers.

The program also fits into DOD chief information officer John Stenbit's goal to improve DOD's network-centricity.

"Whether it is the Pentagon, whether it is the collaborative environment out and around the Pentagon...we are very much focused on being network-centric," said Owen Wormser, principal director for spectrum, space, sensors and command, control and communications in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense.

Stenbit has stressed that DOD needs to make information available on a network that people can rely on and trust.

The idea is to eliminate the need to be in a particular location to access critical data, DOD officials said. Therefore, the virtual Pentagon plan will create redundancies so that the network is available regardless of where the Pentagon is damaged.

"The objective is to build in logical and physical improvements within each area for survivability of the networks and systems against catastrophes," program officials said.

CCSP encompasses four areas — voice, networks, mainframes and messaging — and the integration of those areas into a seamless infrastructure, officials said.

According to the presolicitation notice, DOD officials are preparing a request for proposals for a CCSP systems integrator "who will be responsible for making necessary changes to the information technology infrastructure in the Pentagon and selected DOD facilities associated with the Pentagon."

CCSP will consist of three acquisitions. "The integration contract covers the overall integration of all four areas," program officials said. The integrator will also design and deploy the voice, networks and mainframe solutions.

Messaging design and deployment will be accomplished using a separate contract. The third contract will cover the facilities needed to house the IT network and voice components.

The CCSP integrator contract will be carried out in two phases. Soon — officials declined to say when — DOD officials will issue a request for qualifications. Then, they will select vendors who will participate in the second phase.

Contingency planning experts, however, said Pentagon officials would be wise to focus not only on IT, but on critical business processes as well.

"We seem to forget that the info tech systems are tools that are used by people," said Dale Windle, a disaster recovery planner and project manager for DisasterRecovery.com, a firm that specializes in helping organizations create disaster recovery plans. "We always find that the real issue is continuity of business operations," and that is carried out by people.

After Sept. 11, "many organizations had well-developed and well-planned disaster recovery plans, but they did not have crisis management plans and emergency response plans," said Joseph Flach, managing director of business continuity planning for Eagle Rock Alliance Ltd., a consulting firm that specializes in contingency plans.

***

Creating a virtual Pentagon

The Pentagon is looking for a systems integrator for the Command Communications Survivability Program. CCSP, formerly known as the virtual Pentagon, will create redudancies so that Pentagon networks, mainframes, voice components and messaging systems will be accessible in the event of a catastrophe. The program will cost more than $400 million and take more than three years to complete, according to the Pentagon Renovation Program Office.

"The integration challenge is related to the objective of a single seamless network infrastructure to support all areas of the CCSP," program officials said.

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