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[] Debatte um GOVNET-Vorschlag von Clarke,

October 15, 2001 

Secure network proposal stirs debate among telecom companies 

By Joshua Dean
jdean -!
- govexec -

The Bush administration?s proposal to create a super-secure voice and
network for federal civilian agencies has left potential contractors
with more
questions than answers. 

Last week, the administration sent national telecommunications companies
into a flurry of activity when it released a request for information
(RFI), which vaguely
outlined a network that would be impervious to cyberattacks. Called
GOVNET, the     network would be free from threats posed by viruses,
worms and denial-of-service attacks. 

According to the request, GOVNET would be a private network that is not
attached to the Internet or other public networks in any way. Such a
network is not unprecedented. The Joint Worldwide Intelligence
Communications System (JWICS) is a classified network with no links at
all to the public Internet that is used by intelligence agencies. 

Building such a network is very expensive. As such, telecommunications
companies are wondering how to create it within reasonable cost
constraints. Telecom insiders were uncertain how the proposed network
would work. A JWICS-style network is at one end of the security-and-cost
spectrum, while a virtual private network operating over the nation?s
public telecom infrastructure, or backbone, is at the other. 

The RFI ?leaves lot of room for interpretation,? said Tony Cira, AT&T?s
vice president of defense programs. The RFI states the Bush
administration wants a private network, Cira said. But the question
becomes ?how private?? he asked. If the government decides it must own
the network fiber, Cira said, GOVNET would be very private and very
costly. Such a move would include operating fiber in the ?last mile,?
the link between local telephone service and the national backbone ?It?s
do-able,? Cira said, ?but it is very expensive.? 

The RFI states the network must link 89 locations in the contiguous
United States. If the federal government decided to install a dedicated
network, a single company could do the job, Cira said. Building such a
network is a tough proposition that would involve buying rights of way
and could take a considerable amount of time to build, he said. 

An industry insider who asked to remain anonymous said the federal
government does not want a virtual private network, but rather desires a
?classic private network.? But like Cira, the source agreed that
building such a network would have to take into consideration the ?last
mile.? ?The federal government wants a classified network for
unclassified agencies. It will be a network for mission critical, secure
applications,? he said. 

Ultimately, Cira said, GOVNET?s final form will have to be a trade-off
between how much reliability and security the government needs balanced
against how much it wants to pay. ?The federal government has asked
industry to give it help in defining its requirements and we?re going to
do that,? Cira said. 

Sprint, a company with a long history of building networks for the
federal government, was ?intrigued? by the GOVNET proposal, said John
Polivka, a spokesman for the company. Sprint provided long-distance
phone service to the government under the FTS 2000 contract. It also won
the contract?s follow-on, FTS 2001. Polivka said the company sees GOVNET
as a complementary service to those already provided by FTS 2001.
?GOVNET will augment the FTS 2001 program by being a supplemental
network,? he said. 

Polivka said he believes the requirements for securing and managing such
a network may narrow the field of potential contractors. He expects the
?usual suspects? to go after the GOVNET contract. Besides Sprint, this
presumably would include AT&T, Qwest Communications Inc. and WorldCom. has confirmed that all four companies have the RFI and are
reviewing it. 

The vendors will have an opportunity to gather more facts about GOVNET
from the government at an Oct. 24 information day. 

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