Information Technology:

DOD Needs to Improve Process for Ensuring Interoperability of Telecommunications Switches

GAO-02-681: Published: Jun 28, 2002. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 2002.

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In November 1992, the Department of Defense (DOD) issued a policy requiring systems to be interoperable. In May 2000, the department began to enforce this policy for telecommunications (telecom) switches, requiring them to be tested and certified for interoperability before being installed within the DOD network. DOD does not have a well-defined process, including clear requirements, for certifying and authorizing telecom switches. The process is not fully documented, current, or complete and DOD has not applied its telecom switch certification and authorization process consistently across vendors, and sometimes violated policy. DOD's application of its telecom switch certification and authorization process is influencing vendors' plans for competing for the department's business. One of five vendors GAO interviewed stated that it has stopped doing business with DOD for economic reasons. Within DOD, positions are mixed on the impact of the department's interoperability goal on competition.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD completed and issued its revised instruction (DODI 8100.3) that documents its certification and authorization process. Prior to issuance, the instruction was reviewed by key DOD stakeholders during a coordination period and by the user community and vendors at two major conferences.

    Recommendation: To ensure network interoperability and address the potential impact on competition for telecom switch vendors, the Secretary of Defense should advance the state of maturity of DOD's telecom switch certification and authorization process by directing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the DOD authority responsible for the process, in the longer term, to revise the existing process (including switch requirements) to ensure that it is complete, current, transparent to stakeholders, and enforceable by the Joint Staff, and issue a revised process to all stakeholders within 180 days. In doing so, the Chairman should seek DOD and vendor comments on a draft of the revised process before it is issued in final form.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD completed and signed its instruction for certifying and authorizing switch installations on January 16, 2004 (DODI 8100.3). Prior to its issuance, DOD briefed the user community and switch vendors on its new procedures for certifying and installing teleommunications switches at two major conferences, providing opportunities for users' and vendors' comments and feedback.

    Recommendation: To ensure network interoperability and address the potential impact on competition for telecom switch vendors, the Secretary of Defense should advance the state of maturity of DOD's telecom switch certification and authorization process by directing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the DOD authority responsible for the process, in the longer term, to revise the existing process (including switch requirements) to ensure that it is complete, current, transparent to stakeholders, and enforceable by the Joint Staff, and issue a revised process to all stakeholders within 180 days. In doing so, the Chairman should solicit DOD and vendor input on needed process changes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has completed an instruction that documents its certification and authorization process (DODI 8100.3). The instruction was reviewed and signed on January 16, 2004, by the DOD CIO who is also the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration, formerly the Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C3I) organization. In addition, the Generic Switching Center Requirements (GSCR) were updated to include the requirements for new switch technology, specifically voice over IP (VOIP). The revised and updated GSCR was posted on December 19, 2003, on the JITC web page and is available to vendors and the test community (www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/i81003_011604/i81003p.pdf).

    Recommendation: To ensure network interoperability and address the potential impact on competition for telecom switch vendors, the Secretary of Defense should advance the state of maturity of DOD's telecom switch certification and authorization process by directing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the DOD authority responsible for the process, in the longer term, to revise the existing process (including switch requirements) to ensure that it is complete, current, transparent to stakeholders, and enforceable by the Joint Staff, and issue a revised process to all stakeholders within 180 days. In doing so, the Chairman should work jointly with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C3I), since this organization is responsible for the interoperability policy and for providing guidance and oversight.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD completed its instruction for testing and certifying the interoperability of telecommunications switches on DOD voice networks on January 16, 2004 (DODI 8100.3). The instruction includes documented processes, including graphics depicting process flows, for DOD and vendors to follow when completing the accreditation and certification process. It is available to DOD and vendors on the directives web site www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/i81003_011604/i81003p.pdf.

    Recommendation: To ensure network interoperability and address the potential impact on competition for telecom switch vendors, the Secretary of Defense should advance the state of maturity of DOD's telecom switch certification and authorization process by directing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the DOD authority responsible for the process, in the near term, to make this fully documented process available to DOD and vendor process stakeholders with in 60 days.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has drafted an instruction document that includes the process flow charts to describe its certification and authorization process. The instruction has been issued for comment to key stakeholders within DOD, and is to be approved by September 30, 2003, thus substantially satisfying this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To ensure network interoperability and address the potential impact on competition for telecom switch vendors, the Secretary of Defense should advance the state of maturity of DOD's telecom switch certification and authorization process by directing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the DOD authority responsible for the process, in the near term, to use the process flowcharts provided in the following briefing to assist in fully documenting the existing certification and authorization process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DISA compiled an inventory of telecommunication switches installed in the Defense Switched Network and, in coordination with the Joint Staff, conducted technical interoperability, operational/mission, and security related risk assessments for all non-standard, uncertified switches. DOD aso tasked DISA, in coordination with the Joint Staff, to develop a risk mitigation plan upon completion of the respective risk assessments. The baseline inventory, risk assessment, and risk mitigation plan are documented in the DSN Switch Inventory report, which was issued by the Joint Staff in January 2004. DOD plans to update the switch inventory semi-annually.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, as the DOD authority responsible for certifying the interoperability of switches, to complete its ongoing inventory of switches installed in the Defense Switched Network. The Secretary should also direct the Assistant Secretary of Defense for C3I, in collaboration with the Chairman, to use this inventory to assess the level of interoperability risk associated with having uncertified switches on the network and to develop and implement a risk mitigation strategy to address any risks identified.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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