DISA plans a single global network contract

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Agency envisions seamless wired and wireless network by 2020 to integrate all types of communication.

The Defense Information Systems Agency unveiled Wednesday a bold plan to develop a single, cohesive global network by 2020 that will include all types of wired and wireless communications, with voice, video and data zapped around the world on a 100-gigabit-per second backbone, 10 times the speed of the circuits it uses today.

This new strategy fits with a call by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to develop a “global networked approach to warfare” in a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Tuesday.

DISA, in a request for information to industry, said it plans to replace its current network transport contracts with a single vehicle that will include Wi-Fi, cellular, satellite and broadband fiber-optic data circuits. In a detailed explanation of its future network vision, DISA said that by 2020 it expects to operate a network with “ubiquitous” 100-gigabit-per second circuits, and may require circuits that operate at speeds as high as 400 gigabits per second.

DISA said the new network contract will replace its $3 billion Defense Information Systems Network Access Transport Services contract awarded in 2006 to AT&T Inc., Qwest Government Services Inc. and Arrowhead Global Solutions Inc. for service in the United States as well as two contracts focused on service in the Pacific and Asia. The DATS contract expires in 2016. The contracts for network communications in the Pacific and Asia include the $2.5 billion Defense Information Network Transmission Services Pacific contract awarded to Verizon in 2009, which expires in 2019, and the $250 million Joint Hawaii Information Technology Services contract awarded to AT&T in 2006, which expires in 2016.

In the past, DISA has purchased network hardware such as switches and routers separate from transport, but the agency made it clear the new contract also will cover hardware.

Though DISA signed an agreement with the General Services Administration in August 2009 for GSA to manage all its satellite bandwidth acquisition, the RFI said the agency may use the new contract vehicle to acquire end-to-end services, which includes teleport receiving stations. DISA said it also could use the new vehicle to acquire satellite dishes.

Currently, all four services have multiple contracts for cellular systems. Under DISA’s new network plan, it would provide global broadband wireless communication for Defense Department users. “In most cases, these wireless services would be managed by the commercial service provider,” DISA said.

DISA envisions an integrated wireless network that includes local Wi-Fi and national and international cellular systems. “The 2020 time frame goal is to enhance secure wireless communication services to provide the user with transparent, integrated seamless mobile service across cellular, wireless wide area network, wireless local area network and satellite boundaries providing service availability to the warfighter that is transparent to the infrastructure used,” DISA said.

Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting, said DISA wants to use the new contract vehicle to drive down network contract prices to commodity levels. He expected all the major telecommunications carriers to bid on the new contract, and pegged its value at $1 billion a year, or $5 billion over an expected five-year contract.

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