Navy Lobs Assault on DMS

WASHINGTON (04/24/2000) - The $1.6 billion global Defense Message System the military has spent years constructing is no improvement over its decades-old message system, contends a senior U.S. Navy official who wants to study whether the messaging system can meet military requirements.

Rear Adm. R.W. Mayo, the Navy's director of space, information warfare, command and control, said the Defense Message System (DMS) is deficient in at least three ways:

* It does not guarantee fast enough delivery of emergency messages.

* It cannot be used by deployed Navy ships.

* It adds to operational complexity.

In a memo sent to the Joint Staff this month, Mayo calls for "a formal Joint Staff-led review" of military messaging requirements and whether DMS can meet them. A Navy spokeswoman said a meeting among the Joint Staff, the Defense secretary's office and the Navy is being arranged.

"Based on fleet experience, the Navy believes DMS does not offer end-to-end messaging capability with significant value added over currently operational Autodin plus commercial off-the-shelf e-mail systems," Mayo wrote. Rather than an improvement over Autodin, which is the Defense Department's Automatic Digital Network, "DMS has evolved into merely a replacement for Autodin," he said.

But Lockheed Martin Corp., the contractor building DMS, is "meeting customers' expectations and requirements," said Dom Costa, Lockheed's vice president for messaging systems. DMS "is up and running and providing secure interoperable messaging in the field," where appropriate hardware has been installed, he said.

Costa said any problems the Navy is having are ones the Navy has created because it is trying to install the system on the cheap. "The Navy has chosen to implement DMS in a minimalist approach due to funding shortfalls," he said.

DOD began to design DMS in 1988 to be a successor to Autodin, which has been used since the 1960s. DMS was intended to be a secure network for transmitting high-level traffic such as nuclear alerts and "go to war" orders, as well as transmitting general-purpose military messages worldwide.

Initially, DMS was intended to provide electronic messaging capabilities to 2 million military personnel. But over the years, requirements have changed, Costa said. Ultimately, DMS could provide communications capabilities for many agencies and link 20 million users, he said.

In 1995, DOD awarded Lockheed Martin a $1.6 billion contract to build the system. It was to be in place by the start of this year, but major pieces remain incomplete. In the Navy's case, initial implementation plans call for DMS to work only ashore, Mayo said. That means when ships go to sea, they must revert to Autodin.

Moreover, DMS is not guaranteed to meet speed requirements for emergency messages, Mayo said. Lockheed Martin said the system can deliver messages anywhere in the world in three minutes. But Autodin delivers in one minute, according to a Defense source.

A source familiar with the DMS program said the Navy uses modems in some of its DMS installations, greatly slowing the delivery of messages.

This is at least the second time the Navy has expressed alarm about DMS. In 1997, it issued a stop-work order on DMS amid reports of widespread user dissatisfaction. And the Navy isn't the only service to become disenchanted with DMS. Last summer, Air Force units in Europe rejected the mobile version of DMS because it consists of a half-ton of equipment packed into several bulky containers. A contractor hired by the Air Force built the mobile version, not Lockheed, Costa said.

DOD's goal remains to adopt DMS and scrap Autodin, a spokeswoman said. The system "is a tremendous leap forward in capability" compared with Autodin, which is "antiquated and obsolete" and an inflexible "Industrial Age system."

Despite Mayo's misgivings, the Navy has not halted DMS installations or stopped using the parts of the system that are in place, a Navy spokeswoman said.

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