Readiness an issue in DOD's transition to IPv6

RESTON, Va.?Pentagon officials reiterated yesterday at the U.S. IPv6 Summit here that the next version of the Internet Protocols is essential to the Defense Department's vision of net-centric warfare. But they remain frustrated by the military's inability to use the new technology.

"The Defense Department is going to be a leader in the deployment of IPv6 in the United States," said Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But an Army captain described the problems he was having with the transition.

"It's not the technical issues; it's not the money. It's the current DOD doctrine," the captain said. "What I hear as a technical leader is that I'm going to implement IPv6, but it's going to be 10 or 15 years before the doctrine is changed to take advantage of it."

He cited a smart rifle being developed that would be able to choose and communicate with the proper weapon to engage a target, be it a rifle bullet or a missile from a fighter jet.

"But the doctrine does not allow that," he said. "No colonel is going to let a private communicate with other services like that."

Giambastiani said those changes would have to come from the highest levels of DOD, after the IPv6 infrastructure was in place.

DOD decided in 2003 that it would move to IPv6 by 2008, and the Office of Management and Budget followed suit this year with a mandate for civilian agencies. Many government officials at the operational level seem to only be going through the motions of transition, said a representative from Microsoft Corp.'s federal sales division.

Upper management in government seems to understand the value of IPv6, he said. "But what I hear from the lower levels is, 'We're doing it because they're telling us we have to.'"

There also was frustration that DOD has not taken a leadership position in directing a governmentwide transition effort.

"What we need right now is the leader," said one civilian. "Why isn't DOD stepping up to the plate to be the leader in government?"

He said vendors are waiting for government to articulate requirements for IPv6 products. But military officials said they want vendors to come up with the innovations and functionality, rather than to specify government requirements.

"It is up to you to bring the government a business case" for implementing IPv6 in the military command and control systems, said Maj. Gen. Dennis C. Moran, vice director of C4 Systems Directorate.

DOD has developed the general principles for an IPv6 command-and-control system that will use the Global Information Grid, but it still is wrestling with the requirements for it, Moran said.

William Jackson is a senior writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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