Defense wireless policy due ? again

Top officials say the DOD wireless report should make debut soon. Really.

The Defense Department's long-awaited wireless policy will be released in a matter of weeks. Again.

DOD has been waiting for well over a year for a new wireless policy to reflect the rapid advances in wireless technology. According to some top IT officials, the report, which was due this time last year, should make its grand debut soon.

"The wireless policy should be out shortly," said Priscilla Guthrie, deputy DOD chief information officer, speaking at the TeleStrategies Federal Networks 2004 conference. "The good news is we believe the policy is much more useful than the draft that was released last year. The bad news is that the policy has spent more than six months in the coordination cycle."

A departmentwide policy must often run through a gamut of offices before it receives final approval, including each of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Secretary, and, in the case of the wireless policy, the Defense CIO's office, as well.

"In this case, the policy is going to come out better and more thought out than the initial position," Guthrie said. "We had to go back through the coordination cycle, but it's almost out."

Dawn Meyerriecks, the chief technology officer for the Defense Information Systems Agency, speaking at the same conference a year ago, said she fully expected the wireless policy to be out late in the winter or early in spring of 2003.

"Last year [at the TeleStrategies conference,] I said the wireless policy would be out in a couple of weeks," she said. "Here we are a year later, and it's still going to come out in a couple of weeks."

DOD officials got serious about developing a wireless policy in late 2002 when it hired Ronald Jost to head up the wireless policy initiative. Jost, a wireless veteran who had worked in the industry for nearly four decades before landing at the Pentagon, said when he was hired he immediately realized the enormity of the task ahead.

"We are facing a number of challenges: We have to do more architecture on the wireless side of the [Global Information Grid]; we have to transform communications; and from a policy side, we have to start to generate a policy for [wireless standard] 802.11 and other appliances," Jost said in an interview last July.

DOD officials issued a policy in October 2002 calling for development of a wireless network infrastructure across the Pentagon while prohibiting wireless access to classified systems. It required that wireless devices used within the Pentagon incorporate technology, including authentication and encryption, for securing such communications.

Since then, drafts of various policies affecting wireless technology have circulated through the halls of the Pentagon, but the overreaching policy that will have the most impact has yet to make its debut.

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